“Dad always had a ‘bad back’; I remember him struggling but he just got on with it. I loved to play rugby and sprint when I was in college. I got injured every now and then; but normally, you knew when your injury happened and you knew that it would get better. I was 19 when I started to feel pain in my left hip; I thought I had overtrained or that I had an injury but I couldn’t remember when it happened. I stopped training but it got worse and slowly spread to my neck, knees, feet and spine. For months I had a morning routine that helped me get through the day. I took my anti-inflammatories and painkillers, followed by a long hot shower to loosen up my joints. Then into the pool for half an hour to get some mobility back. After that I could walk, but with a limp. Eventually, my doctor ordered an MRI and discovered inflammation in my sacroiliac joint. My diagnosis soon followed, ankylosing spondylitis, a hereditary form of arthritis. It turned out that dad’s back wasn’t just a ‘bad back’, he had it too; as did two of my older brothers. The average diagnosis for my condition is eight years; I was diagnosed in six months. I improved rapidly as soon as I began treatment. I was actually able to enjoy being active again – staying physically active definitely helps maintain my condition. For a long time, my arthritis was a hidden disability but I just got on with it. When I first heard of Arthritis Ireland’s work, I realised the importance of being open about my condition. I wanted to raise money for Arthritis Ireland because I knew that the support, they offer would have meant so much to me as a teenager. I jumped into the sea, a river, a lake or an ice bath every day of December to raise money and awareness; I raised nearly four thousand euros by the end! My condition is not rare, there are plenty of people out there with similar stories and they might think they just have a ‘bad back’. They don’t have to suffer silently; support and help are out there!”
This post was highlighted by @ArthritisIreland National Arthritis Week is taking place this week highlighting the importance of physical activity for people living with arthritis. Find out more in the comments section.