“Everyone is different – manage your arthritis in ways that work for you”

12 December 2019
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Dancing was once everything to 52-year-old Alison. It was both her passion and her part of her livelihood, until one day after an evening of dance she felt her hip go ‘ping’. That was the start of her osteoarthritis, and the condition has since had a huge impact on her career, her social life and her self-esteem.

Here she tells us how she’s found ways to exercise and keep fit, as well as sharing her top 5 tips for keeping active this winter.

My diagnosis was a massive blow and I found it really hard to accept

When I got the diagnosis, I couldn’t believe it. I was in my mid to late forties and I never thought arthritis would affect someone fit and healthy like me.

Aside from dealing with the pain itself, I had to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t continue with my jive competitions or teach dance to children. Dancing was such a huge part of my life and I went from doing it three times a week to just once a month, if I felt up to it.

Financially, things became difficult as I had to give up teaching my children’s dance classes as well. Suddenly the very thing I loved to do, and relied on for work, was taken away. It was like losing a part of myself.

It has an impact on how you feel inside and out

After the initial shock, I realised I had no choice but to slow down and concentrate on looking after my body. I had a number of steroid injections and then micro fracture surgery but neither worked. So, in 2016, I had a full hip replacement which caused my right leg to be 5cm longer than before.

My recovery was slow and since my surgery, I have to wear a special built up shoe which, I’ll admit, has really knocked my confidence. I used to be the life and soul of a party, but I started avoiding events where I had to dress up. I didn’t want to wear a glamorous outfit with my support shoe.

Actually, I stopped going to social gatherings altogether for a while. They just reminded me how much my life had changed. I remember one occasion when everyone was standing around, while I sat alone in the corner because I was in too much pain to stand. I think people assumed I was being anti-social which is the opposite of my personality.

Learning to do things differently was key

There were times when I felt really depressed. I was constantly tired and, some days, I struggled to get out of bed.

During my recovery my son’s and close family were extremely supportive and I found being honest with them about my feelings was important. That definitely helped and it’s brought us all closer together.

Now I’m finding ways to rebuild my self-esteem. I’m constantly adapting and reinventing myself so that I can cope with my condition.

I am a FLexercise instructor and I still run my fitness classes, many of the members are in a similar situation, so I really relate to them.

I also set up a weight loss business which is so important for people with arthritis. Exercise is also key; my classes are a great community and support.

I have found other ways to get a buzz too. I go kayaking which is great fun and less pressure on my joints as I’m sat down.

I’ve also found a wonderful partner who I met whilst having my treatment. Our relationship is something very positive to have come out of this difficult time and his understanding of osteoarthritis has helped me open up and regain confidence. I’m determined to make the most of life, in spite of my arthritis.

My 5 tips for keeping active in the winter months

  1. Find a buddy and plan in weekly walks, take in some nature, this is good for the mind and body.
  2. Don't sit for too long, get up and move regularly, climb your stairs and keep moving.
  3. Find a warm indoor pool, gentle aqua aerobics or doing your own version in the pool can keep you mobile and possibly help with pain.
  4. Find a local community exercise class. For example, the classes I run with Flexercise are safe, fun and friendly.
  5. Sign up for something in your community, perhaps a dancing club or maybe volunteer for local charity.

Get the support you need

If you want help, support or information, call our helpline on 0800 5200 520 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or join our online community. You can find out what’s happening in your local area here and link up with people who are experiencing similar journeys to you.