National Arthritis Week: Limiting the effects of arthritis.

As it’s National Arthritis Week, I’ve been writing about having arthritis, my surgery and how I have adapted to minimise the effects on my life. Part one is here and there’s a link to part two at the bottom of the page.

Self-Help
I try and make life easier for myself where possible: wearing the clumpy boots most of the time if I’m out and about, but on a recent work trip to London I managed to wear a pair of boots with a reasonable heel and a slightly pointier toe, although nothing extreme, and I felt it a bit that night. Trainers might be comfortable, but you’re more likely to hurt yourself in them – I’ve temporarily crippled myself just by setting my foot down on a stone the wrong way. The best footwear is supportive, has a stiff sole and you might also get told to put orthotics inside them, to prevent your foot rolling and causing pain to the joint. Just because the bone spur was removed, I still have arthritis in that joint and may need future surgery, so looking after it is only sensible.

Assuming that I am wearing the right shoes most of the time when I’m outdoors, and not wearing shoes at all when I’m indoors at home, I can do pretty much everything I could do before I considered my mobility became limited. The thing that took the longest was being able to stand on tiptoes without pain in the ball of my foot, but given how short I am, stretching and tip-toeing are a part of my daily life, so I kept at it and now I’m fine.

I do need to consider temperature, as the joint tends to ache if the air is damp or it’s cold. That means, when camping, I need to remember to keep my feet warm and dry, but to be honest that’s basic common sense whether you have arthritis or not. I’m more likely to notice that when I’m wearing leather fashion boots, rather than walking boots and thick socks, so I’m less likely to be able to do that comfortably in the winter.

This was something I learned earlier this year, as I froze my feet solid singing carols in Salisbury. I was fine standing there singing, but trying to actually walk and unlock my foot from its fixed position after 40 minutes was both uncomfortable and funny-looking. I probably looked ridiculous – I know I felt it. The next time I did it I just gave in and wore trousers and boots that didn’t look right. I knew nobody would be looking at my feet: but my shoes very much affect my posture, which affects my singing etc. etc. etc.. Anyway, I paid for that first night with three days of being able to do nothing but an Ozzy Osbourne-style shuffle when walking and couldn’t wear anything on my foot that wasn’t a soft slipper-style shoe. It was nowhere near the level of discomfort I used to get from the pinched nerves, however – a grumbling but steady 2-3 as opposed to something that could go from 0 to 10 in an instant and stay there for anything from a split second to reducing a bit to about an 8 and hanging around for days.

I found this in Lacock Abbey. My sensible footwear probably allowed me to get closer than I otherwise might have done. (The floor was uneven.)

I found this in Lacock Abbey. My sensible footwear probably allowed me to get closer than I otherwise might have done. (The floor was uneven.)

Was it worth it? (Repeated because it’s important.)
A hundred times, yes. It will have an impact on your life as the recovery period and the inability to wear certain shoes after surgery is stuff that all needs to be considered, but I am very glad that I’ve done it. It would probably have been easier initially if I had someone running around and doing stuff for me, but I declined all those offers because I like to prove to myself that I can do things – or to work out how much I can do before I need to ask for help. That said, I have a small house and I arranged things (or got other people to arrange things) the way I needed them to be to make my life as easy as it could possibly be. To read about the actual operation (a cheilectomy) and what recovery was like for me, click here.

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