I have had joint pain my entire life, it started in my wrists and ankles as a small child whenever it was cold or rainy. We were told it was growing pains. I stopped growing at age 12, but the pain never did. Around 15 I started having lower back pain, but assumed I had done something to it during cheerleading or volleyball practice. I joined the Navy when I was 19, during my schooling the hard chairs caused an immense amount of lower back pain, when PT didn’t take the pain away I was accused or making it up in order to be discharged, so I decided to just live with the pain. By age 23 I had 3 children under age 2, so exhaustion and back pain were attributed to that. During this time my hands and feet began to ache more and more and now my hips began to ache as well. My grandmother had RA, so doctors would run blood work checking for that and X-rays to check for osteoarthritis every year which were always negative. As my pain increased without anything showing up on these tests I was told that I was “too young to have arthritis” and made to feel like it was all in my head. As a military family we moved every few years, this meant a new opportunity for a doctor to figure out why I was always so tired and in so much pain, unfortunately it never seemed to work that way. When we moved to Maine I decided not to bother trying, there’s only so long that you can be told it’s all in your head before you start to believe it. I was surprised when my new doctor read my file and asked me to tell him what was going on. He referred me to a rheumatologist who ran tons of blood work and found that I was HLA-B27 positive, and diagnosed me with AS. Until seeing my rheumatologist I had no idea that RA and osteoarthritis weren’t the only forms. My diagnosis came in 2010 at age 34, 19 years after my lower back pain started.
Maine, United States of America