“It was difficult to explain the pain to colleagues. To them I looked perfectly fine.”
Lisa, 50, has been living with osteoarthritis for ten years and says that she started to experience the symptoms four years before she was officially diagnosed. Lisa was working in an office-based role at the time and explains that it was hard for her to come to terms with the fact that her arthritis was affecting her ability to work. As the pain got worse, Lisa decided to leave work and focus on managing her pain and living well with her arthritis.
“At the time, I wasn’t aware that the pain I was experiencing in my neck and shoulders was related to arthritis. So, my diagnosis did come as a complete shock.”
“I would spend hours at my desk and would often be in a lot of pain.”
Up until her diagnosis, Lisa had worked in office-based roles for many years. Her employer arranged for an ergonomic specialist to assess her needs. She says: “I was provided with a new working environment, that was catered very specifically to my needs at the time.
“Despite being incredibly grateful to my employer for the support I received, the ergonomic equipment only bought me short term and partial relief. I would spend hours at my desk and would often be in a lot of pain. It was difficult to explain to my colleagues, as to them I looked perfectly fine on the outside.”
Two years after her diagnosis and at the age of 46, Lisa made the decision to leave work. “It was a hard decision to make. I’ve never been a quitter and at the time, part of me felt that I was giving up too easily. But in my heart, I knew my body couldn’t cope with the pressures of being in an office-based environment and having to sit a desk for hours at a time.”
“Arthritis has stolen my independence but over time I’ve learnt to accept this”
“After I stopped working, the pain in my neck reduced significantly. However, the pain spread to other areas of my body and in subsequent years the doctors confirmed that I also have osteoarthritis in both my feet and hands.”
Lisa often struggles to sleep and explains, “It’s difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep, when you’re experiencing pain in both your neck and arms. I was taking a nerve control tablet to assist with this, but the effects were short-lived, and I was concerned about increasing the dosage.
“The pain in my neck and arms means that simple household chores have been become extremely difficult. Instead of cleaning my house in a couple of hours, it now takes me a week, as I have to break down the chores into smaller chunks, so I can manage the pain.”
Lisa adds: “Arthritis has stopped me from working and stolen my independence, but over time I’ve learnt to accept this.”
The benefits of exercise
Lisa has found exercise to be very beneficial, in terms of managing the pain and improving her emotional wellbeing.
"I’m feeling the benefits of exercise in so many ways. Since I’ve been focusing on exercise, I can manage the pain better. I particularly enjoy taking part in regular Pilates and yoga classes, although I was advised not to lift heavy weights or play racket sports that could put pressure on my neck and shoulders.
“My advice to anyone with arthritis is to keep moving. I know everyone says that but take it from me I’ve seen such positive changes in my life since I’ve been exercising in a focused way. It really is the small things you notice that make the biggest difference to how you feel.”
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