Glynis' Story - Arthritis Action

Glynis’ Story

I have lived with some form of arthritis all my life. I had an accident when I was 4, when a sash window came down on my neck. No one took you to hospital in those days. The belief was just to heal up in the short term and then crack on with things! I remember being hurt at the time, but obviously as a 4-year-old I did not think about the damage it would do in the long term.

During my teenage years, I began feeling stiffness in my neck. At about 18 I finally had an x-ray, where they discovered I only had one section of disc left in my neck! I had learnt how to live my life despite my body before this. I didn’t know any different, so just assumed that what I was feeling was normal. It was good to finally get that clarity when I was 18.

I went to a physiotherapist shortly after, but at the time I was not impressed at all. They told me that I should be sitting down while doing the ironing. I was an 18-year-old girl, I was not doing much ironing to begin with! I was not impressed by the advice I was given back then, so I was mostly left alone to get on with things on my own.

At 21, I woke up one morning and felt as though my neck was stuck to my shoulder. The doctor examined me and told me I had a ‘wry neck’, which is when your neck twists or tilts. That is when I started having to change things about how I lived my life. I used to do lots of sport and exercise like badminton, which I found quite difficult to give up. I always had trouble maintaining my weight anyway, but giving up sport made that battle even harder. It became easy to think “Why should I bother? I cannot do the things I want to do anyway.” I was in a downward spiral for several years, as I was a young woman unable to do the things I wanted to do. It took me many years to accept what happened to me. It is only recently, in my much later years, that I would honestly say I have been able to fully process everything.

I started seeing a life coach and practicing mindfulness in my 40s. This was the beginning of me learning what I could do to help look after my body, though it was still many years before I put it all together and really started successfully managing my arthritis. Around this time I also started seeing an osteopath who really helped me begin managing my arthritis. When I first went, I couldn’t bare my legs being touched because of the pain. He made me understand that feeling such intense pain was not normal, and there were ways I could self-manage my condition to reduce the pain.

“Over the years, I learnt what works best for me. I now have many different tools in my toolbelt to help my arthritis. It is a lot, but it all helps!”

I first heard about Arthritis Action through an advert. I had a look at their resources and advice, and thought it was exactly what I was looking for! I started talking things through with their dietitian, Martin Lau. He helped me to focus on what worked well for me, and how to cope with my condition in the long term. I was not coping well at all when we first spoke, but he helped me come to terms with everything and get a hold of my life. He taught me to keep an eye on my weight over time, learn what food and ingredients would be best for me, and prep my meal plans for the coming week to be healthier. This also had the added effect of helping me to better control my diabetes too!

Martin’s advice really helped me to find out what worked best for me and my situation. My holistic view is now much better. I had done bits and pieces before which helped me to manage my arthritis, but Martin helped me to put all those building blocks together into an actual plan for the rest of my life. I would recommend the charity to anyone. I even got my sister involved, during a drop-in session with Martin in Eastbourne!

After learning more about the importance of self-management, I slowly began exercising again. I started with vibration plates which helped a lot, but when my first exercise trainer left their job I felt lost about how best to move forward. I went to the gym for the first time in 2013. I was not too nervous about that as I was seeing a trainer one-on-one, who could get me started and explain everything as we worked. This had the double benefit of helping to improve the muscles around my joints, but also helping me to manage my weight. It made the world of good.

Over the years, I learnt what works best for me. I now have many different tools in my toolbelt to help my arthritis – I see a personal trainer who focuses on older women, I practice mindfulness every night, I go to the osteopath once a week. It is a lot, but it all helps! I recently was not able to exercise at all for two weeks and was in so much pain from it. It really showed me how much my exercise was helping my situation.

I now do a lot more walking than I used to. This time last year I used a wheelchair to get about, but now I only need a rollator. If I am out and about with my husband, we will take the wheelchair with us and take it in turns to each rest in the chair whenever we need to! It is a huge step up from before where I would have to be in it all day.

Having gone through all of this, I would advise someone on a similar journey as me to get as much information as possible. Never be afraid to ask for help, whether from doctors, friends, people who have been through similar experiences, or charities like Arthritis Action. There are so many people out there who want to help. Learn as much as you can, try things out, and see what works for you and your condition.