I was diagnosed with Osteoarthritis in my knees nearly 5 years ago and apparently it’s the most common form of arthritis in the UK. The condition Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease. Take your pick, whatever the name it can be very painful. Osteoarthrosis, is a joint disease resulting from the breakdown of joint cartilage and the underlying bone. The most common symptoms are joint pain and stiffness and don’t I know it!
Early Joint Pain
I have had problems with my knees aching ever since I was a teenager 40 odd years ago. I believe that it developed from damage caused by falling on my knees and then working as a sewing machinist from the age of 15 – my knees were terribly stiff after working for hours on a machine. I can remember my knees locking and it being quite painful to straighten my legs after 8 hours of sewing. My knees would make a cracking noise like when somebody cracks their knuckles when I straightened my legs. The doctor didn’t do anything, just said that it was damaged cartilages that would probably cause me a lot of pain when I was older.
The pain was always worse in the winter. I tried to stay out of drafts, but when I was working there was always a draft from the motor. I trained myself to sleep with my legs stretched out, curling up as I liked to lay would mean stiffness in the morning. It became harder for me to kneel on the floor, or sometimes even climb onto a ladder or stool. As I do my own decorating it was definitely a pain!
I’ve never been one to take lots of tablets, believing that you need to try to deal with the problem before relieving the symptoms. When I reached my late 30s I started to weight train at the local gym. After a while I realised that the stiffness and pain had all but disappeared. I trained for 5 years and during that time changed my occupation to retail where I rarely sat down.
I was almost pain free for many years and then after a bad fall at work the backs of my knees were black from the bruising and swelled up like tennis balls. It took several weeks for the bruises and all of the swelling to go, but the stiffness and pain remained.
Knees Giving Way
I walk to and from work every day up and down a mile long steep hill. Good exercise yes but 5 years ago my knees (mostly the left knee) started to give way every few yards about half way down the hill. Apart from being painful I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to get myself home safely. Standing on a foot stool to reach the top shelves became unsafe for me (and customers!), going down the stairs at home and at work there was always the worry that my knees would give way and that I would fall.
One day after cashing up I was carrying two tills down the stairs from the office to the shop and my knee gave way. I dropped the tills and grabbed the bannister, the tills broke and the cash went all over. I was lucky that it wasn’t lying broken at the foot of the stairs.
I then went to see my doctor who referred me to a specialist right at the top of a very steep cobbled street in Haworth – ouch! Diagnosed with osteoarthritis, I was given a leaflet and a sheet of exercises to do and that’s it.
When I got home I had a think about what the specialist’s advice and thought about my lifestyle. First of all I realised that I was often sat in a draft at home due to my timid cat who cannot bear being in a room with the doors closed. I bought a rug to keep my knees warm and that helped.
I sometimes used my laptop on my knees and that made them ache after a few hours. I bought a laptop table but I couldn’t get close enough to it to work in comfort. I got rid of that one and tried the cheaper folding table as pictured. You can see that the legs fit underneath a sofa meaning that you can pull the table closer and work in comfort.
I also use the table for jewellery making and drawing. You can also eat off it and do jigsaws. It isn’t as sturdy as the first one that I bought but far more comfortable to use.
Because I’m on my feet a lot at work I thought that Neoprene Knee Supports were a good idea. They worked but one day at work one came loose and ended up round my ankles. My colleagues and the customers laughed, so did I in an embarrassed way. I haven’t needed to use the Knee Supports for a while now thanks to exercise.
I took out a monthly subscription at the local health centre and started to train at the gym and swim afterwards. Weight bearing exercise is good for you and especially when you are getting older like myself. For my knees I found that rowing machines, walkers and exercise bikes made my knees worse, but a recumbent exercise bike like the one pictured really helped. Swimming has also helped tremendously. I have lost quite a lot of weight which takes some of the strain off my knees and the painful stiffness in my knees and the rest of my body has almost disappeared.
Due to the measures that I have taken during the last few years my osteoarthritis is barely noticeable except for when I get tardy with my exercising. My knees don’t give way now and dropping 3 sizes in clothes and feeling fitter and healthier is a welcome bonus. That is the way I deal with osteoarthritis of the knees, some swear by improving the diet with more fibre or fruit and veg which I think combined with the correct exercises will help. Others like my friend Helen have operations, but I don’t want an operation. I did read an interesting article earlier this week which could be useful for those of you who don’t want to exercise.
It’s claimed that a natural supplement called Pycnogenol, or the extract of French Maritime pine bark helps to ease symptoms. I haven’t tried it so can’t really comment, however it is often sold as an anti aging supplement as well as a natural anti-inflammatory. You can find more details if you click here.
I hope that you have found this article about how I deal with osteoarthritis useful. If you have any questions or advice that you can add please leave a comment.