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Inspire Living with Arthritis

Julian Worricker embraces the art of talking – and how it can help boost awareness of conditions like arthritis

‘Why is your little finger such a funny shape?’ That’s probably the question that has most often prompted a conversation about my psoriatic arthritis over the years. I’ve never found it difficult to talk about; people who’ve known me for a long time were already familiar with the psoriasisI had when I was younger, so when I was able to explain the connection between the two conditions it seemed to make sense. Not that the questions ended there, of course. ‘Ooh, what about that thumb too?’ and ‘Does it hurt?’ were buy steroids uk natural follow-ups, the latter often accompanied by a firm, uninvited grabbing of the hand ‘just to see what it felt like’.I mention the idea of talking about my condition because Arthritis Care is going to be encouraging a lot of talking and sharing in the coming year. That’s got to be a good thing. If you were lucky enough to attend the charity’s Christmas carol concert in December you will have heard a compelling account of her condition from trustee Clare Reid. She spoke very movingly of her diagnosis with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis at the age of 13 and of the very difficult times she’s had since, but also of the many things she’s accomplished despite that early diagnosis. Amid the readings, the music and the fun provided by Jane Asher and Richard Stilgoe, it was probably the story that lingered longest in the memory after a lovely evening.Her story, and those of others living with arthritis at a comparatively young age, are crucial. That’s not, in any way, to minimise the difficulties faced by those with arthritis in later life, but the harsh reality of the media world I inhabit is that a story that surprises in a certain way is more likely to stick in the mind, and therefore to interest the people making the decisions about what to cover in the media. And young people with arthritis are seen as more ‘surprising’ than those of us living with it in our 50s and beyond. So, if 2016 for Arthritis Care is going to be about talking and sharing, I’ll happily continue to answer questions about the dianabol pills for sale shape of my little finger. Come to that, both little fingers; because one thing’s for sure – they certainly don’t match any more. And if that helps raise awareness in a small way, here’s to the condition getting a bit more coverage in the next 12 months.

Getting active

Exercising to help with self-management of chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis is nothing new. In fact, it’s recommended by both the NHS and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).The problem is, the exercise recommended is moderate to intense physical activity for 30 minutes, five times a week, with a focus on walking.The guidelines are the same for everyone, because it’s said to be the optimal amount needed for long-term health benefits.This presents a problem for people with arthritis, however, because they tend to have reduced mobility and pain while exercising for extended periods – particularly when doing weight-bearing activities.In a recent study I conducted, a 20 per cent reduction in pain and a 30 per cent increase in mobility was achieved by participants with osteoarthritis after six weeks of exercise. The programme consisted of four short sessions per week, with a longer class-based session each week.Lower-body strengthA series of static exercises, using a chair for support, was devised, with the focus on building up initial strength, predominately in the lower body. This allowed participants to improve strength, coordination, balance and – most importantly – confidence.The walking element was initially just 40m (four x 10m with a turn), but the emphasis was on speed. This was to improve the quality of movement and make it a conscious focus for people to anavar uk buy improve their balance and coordination.All of the participants were asked to analyse which elements of the exercise they found difficult, and why. Each person was supported to help with increasing their range of movement, balance and coordination, and this improved their confidence.For the study, the target was to walk continuously for just six minutes. People practised walking and recorded the distance covered over the six weeks (breaks were allowed if required). The average increase in distance in six minutes was 100m – a 25 per cent increase. Over the 40m distance with turns, the participants improved by 12 per cent.The strength exercises allowed participants not only to make physical improvements, but also build up confidence that they could do exercise. Physical strength improved by 38 per cent during the study, with a massive increase in confidence to perform normal, everyday movements.Initial testing for strength and walking put half of the participants in the study at risk of falls, but – by the end of the study – all participants were above the falls threshold for walking, and above strength levels for able-bodied people with no arthritis.The study was conducted as part of a GP exercise-referral scheme in a community setting. The results show that – even with arthritis – it is still possible to reduce pain and improve mobility.

6 ways to make yourself heard

Living with arthritis can be an emotional rollercoaster, and managing your symptoms is often easier when you’re open about them. Parents, relatives and friends can provide vital support, while doctors and other healthcare professionals can make sure you’re getting the right treatment. But some people struggle to explain how arthritis affects them and their everyday life.So what’s the best way to communicate with your GP, arthritis specialist, pharmacist, partner, friends – and even boss? How can you make yourself heard?1. Talking to… your GPYour GP might refer you to a consultant, physiotherapist or occupational therapist initially, but then will prescribe some or all of your medicines. You often only get a 10-minute appointment, so you’ll need to be organised to make sure you don’t miss out anything. It may help if you take a friend or relative with you.‘Try to book the first appointment of the surgery, when your GP isn’t already running late – or the last appointment, when the GP won’t be worrying about keeping the next patient waiting,’ advises GP Dr Sarah Jarvis. ‘Keeping a diary of your symptoms may be more useful for your surgeon or specialist buy anavar uk nurse, but it does give your GP an idea of when your symptoms are worst and what triggers them.’2. Talking to… your consultantConsultations are a two-way process. They are not just a time for the consultant to examine you, but also an opportunity for you to ask questions or discuss any problems you’re having. In May 2015, a Pfizer Global Survey found that people who discuss their concerns and fears with a healthcare professional find it easier to cope with their arthritis symptoms. Contacting hospital consultants isn’t always easy though. ‘People who are under the care of a hospital consultant can contact them via the clinic secretary, or via their GP,’ says Bharti Rajpara, from the Arthritis Care helpline. ‘And they can contact the specialist clinic nurse – for example, the specialist rheumatology nurse – for medical and informal support between appointments’3. Talking to… your local pharmacistYour pharmacist is an easily accessible source of advice about your medicines. They are available every day, including evenings and weekends, and you don’t need to make an appointment. Dr Mahendra Patel, pharmacist and principal enterprise fellow at the University of Huddersfield, suggests you visit the same pharmacist each time, as this will help them to keep track of your medicines.Community pharmacist Sultan ‘Sid’ Dajani says you can arrange an individual consultation, which will only take 10-15 minutes. ‘The best times to visit a pharmacy are often late morning or early afternoon, when the pharmacist is less busy,’ he adds.4. Talking to… your partnerPain and tiredness may affect your mood and self-esteem, as well as your sex life, and it’s important that you and your partner are open with one another. Good communication will ensure you get the help you need while also maintaining your independence.‘Sometimes when we try to talk to our partners, especially if we’re in pain and exhausted, it comes out wrong and both parties end up feeling hurt and frustrated,’ says Rajpara. ‘It’s important not to focus on what they aren’t doing, but to encourage them by explaining that the more they help, the better you’re going to feel.’5. Talking to… your friendsTry not to get angry or frustrated if some friends just don’t get it – this may make your symptoms worse. Focus instead on the people who care about you and give you the support you need. John Knowles, of the Arthritis Care helpline, suggests joining the Arthritis Care forum (www.arthritiscare.org.uk/help-and-support/join-the-forum) to find a network of like-minded people.If social engagements are sapping your energy, one way to keep track of your energy levels is to use the ‘spoon theory’, first used in 2003 by Christine Miserandino, who has lupus. Each day, you start off with a specific number of spoons (for example, 12). Every activity you do uses up a certain number of spoons. If/when you run out of spoons for the day, you’ll need to recharge your energy levels, which may involve resting and cancelling arrangements.6. Talking to… your bossIf you’re struggling at work, you may worry about telling your employer about your arthritis. But a stressful or physically demanding job can affect your symptoms.‘You don’t have to formally disclose your arthritis at work, though – in the long term – being open about having arthritis can lead to having a more supportive and sustainable working life,’ says Rajpara. ‘Many employers don’t know arthritis affects people of working age and are supportive when told about it by an employee before problems develop. They may be more cooperative once they understand your concerns – and how easy and cheap many workplace adjustments can be.’ ‘My communication has got better as I’ve got older’Natalie Wright, 29, from sustanon 250 buy uk Cheshire, has had arthritis for 25 years‘Having no secrets and being upfront about my abilities or limitations – especially in work – is really important, as I need to protect my health and body from further issues.‘I’m very forward and direct with doctors because I’m living with arthritis and feel I know it better than most healthcare professionals. That said, I do respect decisions and information given to me. My communication has become better as I have got older, because I have become more knowledgeable about my condition and I’ve developed the confidence to convey what I need.‘My work colleagues all know about my arthritis. When I first started at work, I sent an email out to staff about my condition, how it impacts me, and what I can’t do and need help with.’

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