Dave has osteoarthritis and is worried about the cost-of-living crisis31 January 2023
Many of us are worried about the cost-of-living crisis. In July last year, 89% of adults in Great Britain reported an increase in their cost of living.
We know that living with arthritis can bring about extra expenses, and many people with arthritis are feeling even more concerned about the cost-of-living crisis.
On the 12 October, we launched an open letter to the Prime Minister, calling on the Government to do more for the 20 million people with arthritis and musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions.
Financial worries can have a big impact on our mental health, and they are often hard to talk about. So, we were very grateful to speak to Dave, age 54, who felt able to share his concerns.
Dave's diagnosis and symptoms
Dave has osteoarthritis of the spine, a condition that causes pain and stiffness in the back or neck. Some people also experience headaches and pain in their shoulders and arms.
Dave first started experiencing symptoms over 20 years ago after a traumatic incident occurred when he worked in the police.
“I started to feel headaches and pain in the spine”, says Dave. “But it was only after an MRI in 2018 that I was referred to a spinal surgeon as it showed damage to discs in the neck and crushed nerves.
"This also resulted in osteoarthritis throughout the spinal column into the lower back.”
“The mobility loss and pain I suffer from ruin my life. I don’t get out of bed some days because it’s too painful to move.”
Due to pain and mobility loss, Dave took early retirement – but not being able to work has caused concerns about the cost-of-living crisis.
“I’m worried. I can’t work now. I have a pension, but it’s not full because I had to retire early. I used to be able to do odd jobs here and there, but I can’t now. My wife can’t work extra hours because of the condition I’m in from day to day differing.”
“We’ve got to have the heating on because it’s so cold, but we’re thinking more about it now before we put it on. We have to justify it. All you hear about is bleak futures and things not getting better. It’s a worry.”
Dealing with rising costs and bills
Due to the increase in energy bills, Dave and his family have had to find new ways to keep warm.
“We’re trying to do a bit more with the house. We had wooden floor downstairs, but a draft came through the floorboards, so we got vinyl fitted.
"We’ve put a draft excluder around the door and we’ve put blinds up to keep the cold out. Also, the attic hatch has been given insulation.
“I get a condition called Raynaud’s – my hands and feet swell, turn blue and at the coldest are extremely painful. I wear alpaca socks and merino gloves to keep my hands and feet warm.
"It’s so cold at night that the pain from just moving to get warmer in the quilt will wake me up. The socks and gloves don’t stop the cold, but they help.
“It’s quite bizarre wearing gloves at night. My dog loves chewing the socks though! The dogs really help when things get rough.”
Coping with the emotional impact of arthritis
The unpredictability and pain of arthritis often affects emotional wellbeing. Like many others with arthritis or an MSK condition, Dave also struggles with his mental health.
“There have been some really dire times”, he says. “I’ve been very close to doing something stupid. When the pain’s there, I come down some mornings and curl up in a ball and cry.
“I’ve had support from the adult mental health team for about 3 years and I’m still under them now. It helps, but I’m sure a pain psychologist would be the best long-term. I can’t get into that system just yet.
“Even now, my close friends don’t know the extent of my condition and associated issues. I feel embarrassed that I am asking for help. A lot of that comes from being in the police. During my service, we dealt with situations and somehow worked on without any counselling. It was just the way we were brought up.
“The way my condition affects my mental health and the family is what guilts me the most. It’s that feeling of not being able to do anything anymore. I went from being able to help others to having to be helped. I don’t feel useful.
“At least I’m getting support now. For other [people with arthritis], I would always recommend finding someone to confide in.”
Despite the difficulties Dave faces, he is incredibly optimistic. He has found that open water swimming helps to relieve his pain.
“Even just lying on my back in cold water makes me feel better”, he says. “We don’t have to travel far to get to a big lake. My daughter does open water swimming too so I can always find company.
"I wear a wetsuit and only do 10/15 mins max in the winter, but it’s quite relaxing. I’m glad I’ve found it as it doesn’t exert the joints. Cold-water therapy seems to have a benefit.
“I’m a firm believer that the NHS shouldn’t have to do everything for me, I need to do stuff for myself. It doesn’t matter who we are, that little effort can make a huge difference.
"People have to understand exercise will hurt to begin with, but it gets better. It’s knowing that and trusting the process.”
We’re here whenever you need us
If you’re worried about the cost-of-living crisis, visit our how to reduce costs of living advice for more information.
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