Living with Arthritis

Today, my husband shares his experiences of living with Arthritis and how he’s come to cope with the symptoms.  Over to A…

July 5th 1999 was the worst day of my life. At 16 years old, my beloved grandmother passed away far too young. I was devastated. It was on this day I was also told that I had facet joint arthropathy and spondylosis of my lumbar spine and the advice of the orthopaedic surgeon was to stop doing all contact and high impact sports. As a 16 year old who did karate, athletics and rugby this was a severe blow. July 5th 1999 has a lot to answer for. It’s a day I’ll never forget as much as I would like to.

Leading up to the diagnosis of my arthritic complaint in my spine, the initial symptom was that of a clicking right hip. My hip would make the most awful clicking and grinding noise when at the extremes of movement which would be accompanied by awful pain. I could also hyper flex my spine backwards. Then followed a series of X-Ray’s, CT Scans and eventually an MRI to find out what was going on.

The worst advice I have ever had was to stop the sports I loved. My once supple and flexible spine started to get stiff. The pain was incredible. At 16 years old going into 6th form I was prescribed co-proxamol for the pain (which was withdrawn from prescription since 2007) and there are six months of my life that are altogether a bit fuzzy.

The worst part of it all was sleep. Looking back I was in no doubt suffering from anxiety and depression now knowing what the signs are. I had lost a beloved family member, I had lost my sport, I was in pain, all I wanted to do when I wasn’t working or at school was sleep. Sleep made things worse. Getting to sleep sometimes was awful because of the pain but then once I was asleep waking up was awful – my spine would seize and sometimes spasm. We now have a special orthopaedic mattress with foam layer, and I use foam pillows to ensure my head is supported correctly and keeps my spine in line.

The combination of stopping exercise suddenly and not replacing it, considering myself to be written off because that’s pretty much what the doctors said was having its toll. NHS physio didn’t help – they were more interested sticking acupuncture needles in me than actually getting my joints moving. The pain got worse, the spasms more frequent and I gained weight. A considerable amount, especially when I was at university when I went from a 30″ waist to a 38″ waist in 3 years.

Then there was the weather and seasonal effects. In the cold it was awful. In the heat, respite. However, a warm day followed by a sudden cool day would set me back. Some days I couldn’t get out of bed because of the pain. When I started work full time I ended up getting a torticollis, where my neck was twisted and my head bending towards one ear as my neck was overcompensating for the lack of movement in my spine. The drugs of the day were acupan and co-codamol. But I knew that medication wasn’t the only answer.

I got recommended a private physio who completely changed my outlook. Gave me some brilliant exercises to do. Showed me how to use my legs as a counterbalance to help me get out of bed (video here -> and gave me some confidence and motivation to get myself sorted.

It’s been a long journey since that torticollis experience, 11 years, and now apart from acute treatment of back pain with prescription medication I don’t take any regular pain medication, I move my spine and stretch and crack and click and even though I am in pretty much constant pain it’s tolerable and my arthritis is not in control of me.

I just wish that I ignored the terrible advice that I got on the 5th July 1999 to give up sport. I now carry lots of extra weight which doesn’t help and is almost impossible to get rid of. That will have to be the next big challenge. Sixteen years of arthritis has been hard, painful and had me in tears on many occasions but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m incredibly proud of how A has dealt with being diagnosed with Arthritis at such a young age.  He rarely complains despite being in constant pain and doesn’t let it stop him enjoying life with the children.

*This is a collaborative post.