“I found the online community a month after diagnosis and am so glad I did.”

06 June 2022
Anna in her surveyor work clothes, walking with a stick and out in the countryside.
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I’m Anna, I’m 62, I work as a self-employed surveyor, and I have osteoarthritis (OA).

It runs in our family. My sister had to have both knees replaced before she was 60 and now has polymyalgia rheumatica, and my grandmother had severe rheumatoid arthritis.

“I’ve always been active.”

My work often has me on my feet all day inspecting large buildings, crawling around in attics, or scrambling up scaffolds.

I also love gardening, fell walking, and occasional kayaking and horse riding. 

In early 2020, I managed a couple of wonderful walks in the hills, then in February after a light tumble, the pain and reduced mobility in my hip suddenly got much worse.

“I was stunned. I had no idea this was coming.”

The pain increased and within a few months I could only walk leaning heavily on a stick, and I was in constant awful pain.

The X-rays showed advanced OA in my hips, which was much worse in the left hip, and I was quickly referred for a steroid injection and hip replacement.

As well as sharp pains in the hip itself, I had shooting pains down my thigh, my knee and shin felt like I’d been hit with a stick.

“I found the online community a month after diagnosis and am so glad I did.”

There’s so much useful information and support and reading the experiences of others on the Versus Arthritis community has been so helpful.

I hadn’t appreciated that arthritis itself can be so exhausting (I thought I was just becoming unfit), so I have to come to terms with this as well.

The Versus Arthritis website has also helped me understand the various treatments available, so I’ve been able to talk this through with my doctor more easily.

I have also learnt that everyone’s experience of arthritis is different; some conditions are much more complex and limiting than my own.

“Pain is an alarm to tell our body to do something different to avoid harm.”

I've found meditation techniques can be very helpful in managing pain, as well as stress and anxiety. I would recommend it to anyone, you don't have to have a spiritual belief.

It's a very calming and practical way to help your mind and body deal with life circumstances, including the consequences of arthritis.

I realise this won't work for everyone, particularly if you are in constant pain. Any new or persistent undiagnosed pains should of course be referred to a GP.

“In April 2021, I had hip replacement surgery.”   

My occupational therapy department gave me a wheeled trolley, raised toilet seat, sock slider and a grabber for when I came home from surgery, which were essential, along with my crutches.  

It helps recovery if you can exercise to get the muscles that support the hip in good shape in the months before surgery, but my pain levels pre-op was too high for that.  

I avoided over-thinking the operation and just trusted the expertise of the surgeons, which helped reduce any pre-op anxiety.  

“Once I was home, I was surprised how self-sufficient I could be.” 

When you are recovering, it helps to do some forward planning. If you live alone, stock up on frozen ready meals, tinned food, or salads for the first week or so.  

A soft shoulder bag is useful for carrying things round the house, e.g., bottles of water, books, phone, etc, and using the trolley between rooms.  

I slept on a row of pillows to avoid pressure points from sleeping on my back for weeks and kept some pain relief by the bed in case of night-time flare ups in the early days. I also sat on soft pillows until the bruising healed.  

“I got my leg working again as soon as possible.”  

I went out on day two on crutches, just a few yards down the road, escorted by my husband. We built it up slowly each day and I was off crutches completely by week seven, even if my gait was a bit lopsided.  

After five months, a week of gentle walks on the Northumberland coast made a huge difference. I could do up to six miles on the flat and my gait was a lot better. Being outside, even in the garden, has been really good for my mental health.

However brave you feel, its big surgery, and it can take a while to get over it emotionally.  

“You need to build up gradually.” 

It’s now just over a year since my operation and my recovery is still slow due to a few rare complications. I still try to avoid exercises that work my hip too much until these are sorted. 

I’m awaiting further treatment for groin pain in the psoas muscle (which lifts your knee) and I’m still seeing my physiotherapist to deal with muscle weakness. But I’m back at work up the scaffolds again (carefully!) and can do gentle walks in the fells.  

The terrible pains are gone, and I no longer need walking aids or pain relief. I can’t imagine how I could have carried on without the surgery and would have had to give up work completely by now.

I know things will improve; in my case it’s just taking a bit longer.  

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If you want help, support or information, get in touch.