We had a chat with one of the ladies in a local exercise class about her experiences of living with osteoarthritis on a daily basis. We took this opportunity to find out from her perspective how it influences her day to day life and thought this would be a good opportunity for you to also hear this!

Here is Amanda, a 57 year old lady who has OA (Osteoarthritis) in her knees (right side more), left shoulder and hands.

‘I’ve always had a manual job and with that I have always experienced various aches and pains. However, about 4 years ago I was told I had OA in my knees and hands. My left knee had swollen in size and has remained enlarged ever since. In the last 2 years I have lost a couple of stone which has taken some of the pain away which definitely helps but it wasn’t a cure. Over time I have also developed pain in other areas of my body such as my shoulders.

How would you describe the condition?

‘Annoying! For me it isn’t always consistent in its symptoms. I always know it is there because there is a dull ache in the joints but some days the simplest of tasks are manageable i.e. lifting my arm above my head to reach something – other days it is so painful! I just can’t do it. This type of pain is more like a shooting pain which rapidly stops me in my tracks.

Does it affect your daily life?

I like to think i’m pretty strong willed and as such I just get on with my day to day tasks; however, as I said some days I am limited to whether I can do them. I now concentrate on the way that I walk, especially during work so I avoid suddenly changing positions or sharply stepping out of doorways so I create a smoother pattern for moving around. No sudden twisting or jerky movements is key – I learnt that the hard way!

Does the time of day or temperature affect you?

In the morning I am very stiff but within 10-15 minutes of being up and about I feel more mobile. You get used to that bit. I can’t say that I notice temperature directly affecting my joints though.

Do you exercise and how do you find it?

Oh yes! I am made to exercise and keep moving. My main class is a circuit training type of class which I enjoy. I go at my own pace and the instructor adapts exercises for me. For example I keep to low impact CV instead of jumping around because my knees wouldn’t take too kindly to that. I avoid things like lunges and do squats to support my knees instead. Some days I can do shoulder press but others it hurts too much so I just do bicep curl. It all depends on how I feel on the day and we change it accordingly. I am no exercise enthusiast but I know it keeps me fit, stronger and more mobile. It helps me in my job too.

Arthritis doesn’t stop me doing things I want to do all the time, it doesn’t even slow me down….it just makes things hurt more and makes me consider what i’m doing too.

Do you have any advice from a client’s point of view for an instructor?

I would probably say not everyone is likely to experience the same thing so make sure you know what your client experiences and ask before each session how they are as it may be different from day to day. Explain to them how to make the exercises easier because I know how to now from what was explained to me by my instructor. Don’t treat anyone like a frail incapable person because i’m sure most can do more than you think and probably more than they know. Yes…I think they are the main things.

As you can see from this short interview, instructors only need to make small adjustments in order to account for someone with mild to moderate osteoarthritis. Use functional tests to determine range of movement, ability and pain levels. You may need to re-educate clients about the importance of exercise and combat myths such as ‘repetitive movement will make the joints worse’. Finally, be aware that pain medication may be taken before an exercise session which will affect their ability to judge pain thresholds.

Thank you for Amanda for sharing her story and we hope you found this valuable.