Wednesday, 5 May 2021

#ThePainfulTruth - The New Versus Arthritis Campaign and How I Tackled Life After Diagnosis


Growing up I never gave much thought to arthritis. I knew it was something you might get when you're older. And anyway it wasn't anything I ever needed worry about as I was a physically active person. 

But barely into my 40s I started to get hip pain. Not post-exercise muscle soreness from training at the gym; this was something else. The pain would inexplicably flare-up, sometimes it was painful to walk and a certain level of discomfort was ever present. 

I started working with a personal trainer, hoping bespoke strength training exercise plans would resolve things. But the pain persisted and training injuries became a regular feature.


While continuing to train with a PT, I decided to seek professional medical advice.  I was referred by my GP to an orthopaedic consultant who confirmed congenital hip dysplasia and moderate hip osteoarthritis.

Hip dysplasia (shallow hip sockets) is the most common cause of hip arthritis in people under 50, according to the International HipDysplasia Institute . One in 10 infants are born with it.

Self managing osteoarthritis, even with the help of consultants, physiotherapists and personal trainers, has been a struggle. A training injury never feels far away and a flare-up means months of rehab.

Getting on board last year with a physiotherapist who really understood my limitations and training capacity made a huge difference to pain management (see previous post). The addition of daily stretching and self massage using a percussion massage gun (main pic) and foam roller have helped ease pain too.


In recent months I’ve also turned to Versus Arthritis. The charity is an amazing source of support for people with arthritis, providing information on all varieties of the disease, a helpline, community forums, free online exercise classes as well as fundraising events and regular email updates.

Versus Arthritis campaigns to raise awareness and improve the lives of people living with arthritis. Today it launches #ThePainfulTruth, an initiative aimed at addressing the poor portrayal and lack of representation of people living with chronic pain on TV and in film.

The charity has produced a guide, The Painful Truth: A Guide to Depicting Chronic Pain on Screen.


Popular culture like TV and film plays a powerful role in shaping perceptions. Analysis by Versus Arthritis of the most popular TV shows and films of 2019 showed just 6 minutes out of 100 hours’ footage featured people living with chronic pain.

For me personally getting involved with Versus Arthritis has turnaround my negativity. My illness was starting to get me down and was constantly on my mind. I have always loved exercise but I was starting to fear it, worried it would trigger a relapse.

Learning more about the disease and how exercising smarter could build the muscle strength needed to support damaged joints without causing flare-ups has made a massive difference to my quality of life. Connecting with other people living with arthritis has provided emotional support too.

I've become passionate about discovering new (non surgical) treatments for arthritis. I recently took on the role of a Patient Insight Partner at Versus Arthritis and will be starting my first project for the charity shortly.

Being diagnosed with arthritis can be distressing but it needn't stop you moving forward and enjoying life.

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