Working alone at night as a young junior nurse on an orthopaedic ward was the start of it all. We nurses often had to turn heavy patients in plaster casts on our own and this did nothing to support our joint health. A back injury I sustained (and neglected) as part of my caring for patients was – unbeknown to me at the time – the beginning of my arthritis journey. There was little health and safety support or management in those days – you basically just got on with it!
Some years later, after having children and wanting to be more physically active and healthy, I took up jogging. This was very therapeutic for a number of reasons. It helped with weight loss, was good for my heart and blood pressure, and felt great with all those endorphins flowing. Besides, it was a social activity with friends and a running club – all part of the motivation for keeping up with this activity for 10 or 12 years. There was a lot of jogging up and down hills, mainly on hard pavements in poor footwear. The swollen, sore knees I experienced were just a bit of a side effect it was easy to ignore.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and affects many of us as we age, particularly if we have had a physically demanding job, played a lot of sport or had past injuries or infections in the joints. So, not surprisingly, I found myself some years ago with osteoarthritis affecting my knees and lower back.
My work is about supporting people in the community to understand their diagnosis of arthritis and how to manage what can be a painful, difficult and sometimes life-changing long term health condition.
Many people are very distressed and shocked with their diagnosis of arthritis and wonder what it will mean for their future. However, although we can’t talk about a cure, we know that there are many ways to manage the symptoms, including pain. Personally speaking, I know this to be true although I don’t always practise what I preach!
I do know from experience, though, that managing osteoarthritis includes regular low impact activity, working on being a healthy weight, and wearing supportive footwear. These can all make a positive difference to living with arthritis.