The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

Archive for Arthritis Foundation

Pillow Talk

A while back I was contacted to see if I would consider trying out a couple of Tempur-Pedic™ pillows and writing a review on them. Of course, I said yes. I’ve always been curious if the Tempur-Pedic™ pillows would be comfortable, as I have rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia, but the risk of buying them and then not having them work had deterred me. Plus, I love pillows. To find a place to sit on my couch you have to move pillows. To sleep, I have a pillow for my head, another special kind to prop my arm up and two Squish pillows to rest my (naturally fused) wrist on.

I’ll admit that I am also a bit of a princess who can feel a pea in her bed, so I knew it would be an interesting experiment. I typically use a large, stiff pillow that hold the weight of my shoulder off of my shoulder, which need joint replacements sooner rather than late. I flip my pillow over a few times a night, so as soon as it is squished down a bit, I flip it for maximum support.

Most of us have heard about Tempur-pedic, but I didn’t realizejust how many credentials they had. For example:

  • Tempur-Pedic® has the only mattresses and pillows recognized by NASA and certified by the Space Foundation as well as more than 75,000 Professional Medical Customers worldwide.

And important to us with a chronic illness?

I was sent two pillows.  The first one I pulled out was the Comfort Pillow. It felt like something I wanted to immediately collapse into. And I did. I was sitting on the couch as I unpacked it and told my husband, “I want all our couch cushions made out of this!” It’s heavy yet very soft, made out of viscoelastic material. (Don’t wack anyone with this pillow in a pillow fight!) You sink into it a bit, but it doesn’t collapse under you like a feather pillow (which I don’t prefer.) You don’t become submerged in it. It holds it’s own. This pillow would have been the perfect home comfort to have had when I spent a week in the hospital last fall.

Like anyone with an illness, it took me a few days before I even decided to try out the pillows because I knew that they may not work and I wasn’t willing to give up the possibility of any sleep that I might have. And then when I started to use the first one, the Comfort Pillow, I thought something smelled funny. Was it the cat having a litter box issue again? Nope, it was the pillows that had a chemical smell. A sticker that accompanied them said that they may have a “slight odor remaining for our manufacturing process. It is completely harmless and will dissipate over a short time with regular use.” The smell did go away closer to two weeks of them sitting in the corner of my room, and now it’s fine. That said, if you have any chemical sensitivity issues, the smell may likely not be “harmless” for you and should be a consideration when buying the pillow.

The Comfort Pillow (price range $79 – $159) pillow wasn’t stiff enough for me to be able to use as my regular pillow to hold up my neck, but I absolutely love it. Every night I go to bed early and will read 1-3 hours and this is the pillow I put on top of my regular pillow so I am propped up a bit and yet every sore muscle feels completely cushioned.

The second pillow is what most people think of I think when they hear Tempur-Pedic™ (at least I do), the Neck Pillow (price range $79 – $159)  that has the memory foam. The first few nights I slept on it a few hours (waking up frequently) and eventually it ended up on the floor and I grabbed my older pillow.) But each time I use it, it becomes a bit more comfortable. In the end, this may become my regular pillow. I think it depends on how my body is flaring on a particular night or how much my shoulders are throbbing. I frequently use Voltarin gel on my shoulders to try to relieve the pain, so it would be difficult for any one pillow to meet my variety of needs that change from day to day. I found that it wasn’t quite thick enough to hold the weight off of my shoulder, but if I put a very thin pillow underneath it, it was more comfortable.

Both pillows are a welcome addition to my arsenal of trying to find comfort when flaring with a rheumatoid arthritis flare. Some nights I have slept on the couch because I couldn’t roll over in bed or pull myself up. When I’ve had a bad cough, my chest has flared so badly I’ve had to sleep sitting up on the couch all night. These very cozy pillows will be a welcome part of those nights to find the most comfortable positions as possible.

I suggest visiting the Tempur-pedic website to find out more about their pillows. They also sell beds, and office and travel products. See something you may want to try? Find out where a store near you carries it, and go find a bed and lay down for awhile. Although finding a pillow can be difficult (who wants to pay $100 for something that may not work?) you can discover rather quickly if this is one of those pillows you will sleep on, read with, or hold for arm support.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis Surging Among Women


Me typing. I use 3 fingers, 2 thumbs. Right hand: Index finger and thumb. Left hand: index finger, pinkie. and thumb

A recent article in Bottom Line Daily Health News said that rheumatoid arthritis is increasing among women. It’s been 16 years ago this summer I began having symptoms. I was diagnosed a few months later and had just turned 24 years old.

In some ways it is nice to have people at least familiar with the name of the disease. However, overly optimistic commercials about treatment have led to this knowledge.

Someone recently emailed me who was just diagnosed to ask for rheumatoid arthritis resources. The 2 I immediately thought of was The Arthritis Foundation and their magazine Arthritis Today. The magazine has gone through many editorial changes in 16 years and just this year made their web site much more interactive as well as geared towards people under 50 too.

Bottom Line Daily Health News states in their Wed 5/13/2009 edition:

Rheumatoid Arthritis Surging Among Women

Why the increase? Some of the growth can be accounted for by the fact that doctors now have more awareness of how to diagnose the disease. Other factors are at work too, I learned from Eric L. Matteson, MD, chair of rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Hormones are known to play a role (since RA typically improves with pregnancy but comes back after delivery) but researchers are examining possible environmental explanations as well. For instance, researchers recently learned that there is an association between living near busy highways and development of RA.

Here’s another theory: For unknown reasons, some people are prone to develop RA after exposure to particular viruses. After a virus has made the rounds and exposed large numbers of people, it may be dormant for a long period, since many people have built immunity. That immunity eventually fades — then, if the same virus returns, it once more affects many people, including some who are susceptible to developing RA. Dr. Matteson noted that such a swell in chronic diseases due to reemergence of a triggering cause, such as virus, is not uncommon.

– Eric L. Matteson, MD, Chair of Rheumatology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota

So why do I have RA?

  • Well, I lived on a dead ended gravel road in a little tiny town with two stop lights, in the same house from age 1 to 18.
  • I was rarely ever sick.
  • I got RA before any pregnancy. In fact, I never had a pregnancy. We adopted.

Hence, once again, I am still stumped when people ask, “How did you get RA?” I have no idea. Just blessed I guess. Sometimes we have to live without the answers.


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