Kathleen Turner & Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Star Who Refused to Fall

7 minute read

To acclaimed actor and 80’s sex symbol Kathleen Turner, the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis was a death sentence. Turner was diagnosed at the peak of her career, and doctors expected her to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

At only 39 years of age, Turner experienced pain like nothing she had ever felt before, and the word “action” brought tears to her eyes. Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating condition that causes crippling pain, and without treatment and determination, it can be the final curtain.

Turner showed true grit, though; she was able to overcome and manage her arthritis pain. Today she can be found right where she belongs—on theatre screens around the world.

A Pain Like No Other

Originally thinking she had sprained an ankle or was exhausted from too many Hollywood parties, Turner did not think much of the pain when it first showed up. When it returned a few days later and this time shot all the way through her to her elbow, she was very alarmed.

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Shooting, unbearable pain is a common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis and needs to be addressed right away. The pain began to occur every morning and after finally confiding in her husband, Turner sought professional help.

Doctors told her she had chronic dislocation of her joints, which was caused by weak connective tissue. Other doctors told her it was sclerosis. Despite the negative feedback, Turner continued to get further testing and finally received a more hopeful diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.

The diagnosis may have been more positive, but the pain was still very real. Rheumatoid arthritis can be debilitating and reaches levels of pain and discomfort that seriously impair your life.

Turner struggled with pain in her hands and feet as she continued to show up on set every day. Walking in heels seemed like approaching death with every single step.

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After a year of trying to work through the pain, Turner found herself in total despair. She could not get out of bed without assistance, her left hand no longer moved, and each movement of her neck shot pain all the way through her.

With the tabloids and critics blaming alcohol for her deterioration, Kathleen tried to remain hopeful, joking with friends that a drunk was better than a cripple.

Her jokes turned out to be a defense mechanism because doctors told her she could lose the ability to move, and she was not able to handle that. Turner shut down, closed herself off from family, friends, and work, and accepted what she viewed as a death sentence.

Moving Past the Pain

Rheumatoid arthritis is a very painful condition, and without treatment it can be devastating. Thankfully for Turner, her husband found a doctor that could shine more positive light on her situation.

Her new doctor started her on a pulse therapy and with the new-found support and encouragement, Turner started gymnastics first and then swimming each day. She found the strength to fight past the pain and tears and regained movement.

Most doctors had written Turner’s recovery off, predicting either disability or cure by miracle. Turner, who was a dynamic presence on screen, applied the same gumption to her fight against rheumatoid arthritis.

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The cure was more than a miracle, because her triumph was more than just chance. Determination, support, and a strength to overcome the condition pushed her past the pain and into recovery,

Today, Turner graces the screen with her presence just as gracefully as she did 20 and 30 years ago. The confidence in her steps and the glow in her face cover any sign of the defeat and despair she has suffered.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects millions of people across the world, and it is scary to think that some doctors out there give up the way Turner’s did at first. Just as she did, others need to look for an answer and not give up, because there are several options to help those living with arthritis.

Remedies for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Even if you have supportive doctors, the pains of rheumatoid arthritis can be a lot to handle each day. It is helpful to know about treatment options to relieve your pain, to make sure you don’t miss out on any important daily activities.

Hot and Cold: Alternating hot and cold treatments can help relieve daily pains. The cold helps to reduce inflammation associated with the condition, thereby releasing your joints from the pressure of swelling. Heat helps to relax your muscles, which encourages blood flow.

Exercise: While this may be hard to do at first, exercise is a great way to keep joints moving, so they stay strong. Stronger joints are able to withstand inflammation better and are not likely to succumb to connective tissue damage.

Consider speaking with a physical therapist about a program or start with something gentle, like walking or swimming. To help relieve rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, you want to keep your heart rate going, muscles moving, and joints strong.

Massage: Massages have been used as a form of therapy for centuries, and they can relieve the aches and pains of rheumatoid arthritis. By relaxing muscles, promoting blood flow, and releasing tension, the body is less stressed.

This reduces inflammation levels, and allows your joints time to heal and gain strength. There are even massage therapists that specialize in treating rheumatoid arthritis.

Joint Relief Supplements: There are numerous supplements available designed to boot joint health. Common ingredients include boswellia serrata and curcumin, both of which are powerful anti-inflammatory agents.

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Typical supplements also contain type-II collagen, which is essential for cartilage health and responsible for building joint strength..

The Bottom Line

Turner’s story is one of power and triumph, and it can inspire all of us that this pain can be beaten. Whether you choose physical therapy, medications, or natural treatment options, rheumatoid arthritis does not have to control you.

Advances in research have allowed us to understand the disease better, which means we can better overcome. More than a movie icon, Turner is an icon of determination.

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