You’re not alone in living with osteoarthritis – we’ve spoken to a number of Australians living with osteoarthritis about their lives, and what they do to stay healthy and happy. In this article, we’ve spoken with Carol, from Sydney, NSW.
In what areas of your body do you experience osteoarthritis?
Carol: How much time have you got! I have osteoarthritis in the back, right on top of the foot, and in my fingers, which is a nuisance because I play the piano. The top of my foot really becomes painful from time to time, and I have to get it strapped.
How did you first find out about your osteoarthritis?
There was quite intense swelling and distortion of the bone on the top of my foot, which became red and angry. I went to a podiatrist because someone suggested I might need orthotics, and he said “Your foot is an osteoarthritis hotspot”.
How did you first feel when you found out?
Angry, more than anything, because my osteoarthritis stopped me from walking as often as I used to. I used to really enjoy doing the City To Surf, and sometimes went to Austria to spend time climbing in the mountains with a friend. I really had to seriously think about that sort of stuff.
What effects has osteoarthritis had on your life?
It makes you feel a little unhappy at times, because it makes you feel old. I mean, I am old – but I don’t want to feel old! I don’t really feel my age – I still do a lot, and I still walk, but if it makes my foot angry I have to stop. So I have to know my body, and know my limits.
What techniques do you use to manage your pain on bad days?
I flex my hands, and get my thumb to touch my little finger, then my next finger and so on. Yoga certainly helps as well, but sometimes I have to miss out because my back is sore. I also take fish oil, and glucosamine, to help my joints.
Anything else you’ve found to be effective?
Aside from stretches and exercise, heat helps a lot. A heat pack across my shoulders or back, wherever it starts to hurt. I also find massage helps, and see a masseuse at a physiotherapist. When the pain is bad, I have prescriptions for pain management, but I prefer to not use them.
What do you do to keep your body healthy?
I used to do aqua-aerobics, because there’s low pressure on the body when you’re in the water. I try to avoid fried foods, and mainly eat fish and vegetables – and a little bit of red meat for iron. I love cake as well – I’m not an angel!
Have you had any successes? What can you do now that you couldn’t do before?
As time goes by, I’ve learned to manage my osteoarthritis and know the limits of my body – and use a little common sense to look after my body. The only thing I’m limited in is my walking, but throughout my life I’ve stayed flexible by exercising, yoga and aerobics.
In my early stages of osteoarthritis, I actually walked to the Mount Everest Basecamp.
I’ve also done two skydives with my son – one in Australia, and one in the United States. I don’t hesitate to do things like that – you’ve just got to be careful when you land!
Finally, do you have any tips or advice for other people with osteoarthritis?
Make the most of it. Try and walk as straight as you can, keep your shoulders back – remind yourself that even though you’re not young you’ve got to try and think young, and feel young. All those things keep it at bay.