I suffered from heel spurs and gout, as well as degenerative disk disease for 20 years before I was officially diagnosed with RA. The degenerative disk disease would cause serious pain and the spine doctors suggested surgery. I just kept pressing on, working, taking painkillers to mask the pain. I didn't know at the time, but I was hiding more than a bad back. I would visit my family physician with swollen hands and she would tell me I was in a flare. I had no idea what she was talking about, unfortunately now I do.