My arthritis and me …

I was diagnosed with arthritis just after my 30th birthday.

I had been involved in a couple of minor car crashes in my early 20’s which had resulted in whiplash and had suffered subsequent episodes of lower back pain and torticollis (a very stiff neck, where it gets stuck in one position)!

At the time, the recommendation was bed rest – usually two weeks bed rest accompanied by strong painkillers.  At the end of the two weeks, I was still in a lot of pain, felt depressed, had lost two weeks of pay and had no further understanding of how to prevent this occurring again.

Over the following years, I have flare ups of lower back or neck pain, again resulting in more time off work and having to rely on family and friends to help with daily chores and childcare. Then it was confirmed that I had Osteoarthritis just after my 30th birthday.

I was so worried about further flare-ups that I avoided activities which I thought might make it worse including exercise and I even changed career as I couldn’t manage some of the physical demands.

Lower back pain was my daily norm and frequent periods of my neck muscles spasming requiring strong painkillers and anti-spasmodic medication.  Again, my GP kept suggesting daily painkillers and sleeping tablets to manage the condition.

I realised that I had to take more responsibility for myself and find things that worked for me.  So, I tried a variety of different complementary therapies.  Some worked better than others but the trick seems to be regular monthly maintenance treatments to keep flare-ups at bay.

I lost some excess weight I had been carrying to take the pressure off my joints and try to limit foods which can cause inflammation.

However, the biggest change I made was to start exercising regularly!

Research was starting to suggest that weight-bearing exercise was beneficial and maintaining full range of motion of movements.

So, I tried various exercises and gyms but still didn’t stick with anything consistently.  Until I found ‘bootcamp’.

Despite being really unfit and inflexible to begin with, I persevered.  I would watch the clock intently and will it to get to the finish time, but I kept turning up.  Why?  What was so different that I kept coming back regularly?  The answer was I was having fun despite myself!

It was obvious there was people of all ages and abilities, but they all encouraged each other, and we had a laugh every session.  Everyone had exercises they found easier or harder.  Every session, I didn’t know what to expect because such a variety of exercises were used.  This meant, I couldn’t get anxious about it beforehand and just turned up.  With my various physical issues, I was given different options for each of the exercises so on a good day I could push myself but if the arthritis was flaring up, I could opt for a more manageable option.

Attending the sessions regularly, gave me the confidence to try other things.  I started a 0-5km running course, then moved onto entering 5km and 10km races.  Even entering a couple of Half-marathons and one Full Marathon.  I have also taken part in obstacle courses and proudly showed off my bruises to anyone and everyone the following day!  To me, this is my equivalent of a gold medal!

I still don’t look athletic or super-fit but my day-to-day life has improved dramatically.  Due to the increased core strength, I do not experience the debilitating back pain I used to.  The bodyweight exercises have helped me build up strength in my leg muscles which in turn mean I don’t have the knee problems I used to.

As I have a desk-bound job, attending the FUNctional Fitness sessions means I get to exercise outdoors whilst having a laugh with other like-minded people.

As I am getting older it is really important to me that I can keep taking part in all the activities I enjoy now and all the adventures we haven’t yet had including more world-wide travel and playing with our grand-children.