RSD, or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, is something you may not have ever heard of, but it’s a disorder that affects millions of people. One of those people is Joann Spalnick of Jermyn.
“It’s just a horrible, horrible disease,” said Spalnick, who has lived with RSD for more than 30 years. RSD is a neurological disorder that causes an exaggerated response to pain.
“A good day is when you’re still in pain and burning but you can function. A bad day is when the pain is so bad I just sit, and I’m done. I can’t do anything,” she says.
RSD is marked by stiffness and/or swelling, lack of range of motion, and often skin discoloration, according to Kirsten Sensbach. She’s a physical therapist at John Heinz Rehab in Wilkes-Barre who often works with RSD patients. She says it often appears after an injury or some sort of trauma, and can be difficult to diagnose.
“It can be emotional for the patient, and they can become depressed over time living with the pain and also with the doubt that they have it,” said Sensbach, who points out that physical therapy can help ease the symptoms.
Spalnick and fellow RSD patient Barb Norton are also on a number of pain medications, but they say nothing takes away the pain completely.
“If you were to touch my left arm, it would be like you punched me. That’s just how it is,” said Norton.
They have just planned the 10th annual Walk Two Miles in My Shoes, an event to raise money for RSD research. The walk was over the weekend at McDade Park in Lackawanna County. In those 10 years, they’ve raised more than $50,000 for Drexel Neurological Associates, a group in Philadelphia working on RSD research.