“It can be frustrating living with arthritis, but you just have to look for the positives.”

14 November 2019
Jemma with her friends and standing by the seaside.
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Jemma, 37, was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis when she was 23.

She started experiencing the symptoms during her teens and was advised by her doctor that it was “just growing pains.” By the time she was officially diagnosed, Jemma could barely walk. She now tells us how she is taking control of her arthritis by enjoying regular exercise and having a healthy, balanced diet.

“It can be frustrating when you realise you can’t do things that others can, but you just have to look for the positives.”

Reflecting on her diagnosis, Jemma says: “I was in pain 24/7. I couldn’t sleep and my short temper made my home environment very tense. Everyone would walk on eggshells around me and worst of all, I knew they were doing it. I couldn’t do simple chores around the house and had to ask for help, which just made me feel inadequate.

“I’ve tried different treatments and medication to manage my symptoms, but I’ve found that practising yoga has improved my mobility.

“I’ve always wanted to go on a skiing holiday, but I just have to accept it won’t ever happen as the pain and risk of injury is too great. It can be frustrating, but you just have to look for the positives.” 

“I’m passionate about keeping active and found that practising yoga helped me to manage my arthritis pain.”

Jemma recently qualified as a yoga instructor and says: “I’m really passionate about keeping active and I found that practising yoga helped me to manage my arthritis pain. The regular movement each day really does increase my range of motion.  

“I was inspired to qualify as a teacher whilst attending a yoga retreat in Croatia. I realised that I could help other people to manage their arthritis through teaching, so I decided to complete a 2-year Hatha Yoga teacher training qualification.

Coping with the winter months

Jemma admits that she struggles with her arthritis during the cold and damp months. She says:

“The severe fatigue is the most noticeable difference for me. I just feel wiped out, with little or no energy to get my body to move.

“It can make small things like commuting to work really hard to manage. I try to work at home when I can or I try to avoid the busiest times to travel, to reduce the stress.”

She adds: “The best advice I can give is to just listen to what your body needs, rather than pushing yourself, which could lead to further damage or injury to your joints.

“My body responds well to warm baths and Epsom salts, and lots of sleep. In an ideal world, I would sleep through the night but when this doesn’t happen, a 20-minute nap is crucial to restore energy levels.”

“My aim is to give my body the energy it needs to take control of my arthritis.”

In addition to keeping active, Jemma has made it a priority to focus on having a healthy and balanced diet.

She says: “I’ve started to follow a full vegetarian diet. I wanted to focus on increasing the number of vitamins I consume on a daily basis and I feel this is the best way to do that.

“So far, I am enjoying it and I find that consuming vegetables gives me a little more energy, particularly at a time when I need it most. Everyone is different but I’ve found that a heavy carb diet with starchy foods doesn’t support my condition.”

Jemma adds: “Staying hydrated is also key for my energy levels and I drink up to three litres of water a day. I also take vitamin supplements of Vitamins B12, D, zinc, and magnesium which I have found beneficial.

“Ultimately, my aim is to give my body the energy it needs to take control of my arthritis, and I believe that how I choose to fuel it, plays a huge part.”

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