Walking with Arthritis: Katherine’s Story

by Izzie Clough

KatherineSince the pubs, clubs and gyms closed for lockdown, it seems like the whole world has taken up walking, hiking and jogging. When you have arthritis, however, just the thought of a 5k can have your joints hollering in protest.

Do not despair; 28-year-old Katherine is here to share her experiences, tips and tricks on how to keep moving with arthritis.

Diagnosed with spondylosis – a type of progressive osteoarthritis that affects the spine and pelvic area – Katherine finds that walking helps her cope with her condition both physically and mentally. From a gentle stroll to a mountain hike, she’s learnt how to stop arthritis from getting in the way of a lifelong hobby…

Have you always enjoyed walking, or did you take it up after your diagnosis?

I love walking and always have done! I enjoy walking in the countryside or in fields around my local area mostly, or near where my partner lives. I like surrounding myself with nature, it always makes me feel better. I have also done more strenuous hikes, like to the top of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, which is 823ft high!

That’s amazing! Would you say that walking is helping you to cope with lockdown?

Oh yes definitely! To get out and have fresh air is brilliant. It makes me feel less trapped, more relaxed and more positive. It’s good for my mental wellbeing and physical health too.

And how has walking helped you to manage your arthritis in general? Do you think it’s made a difference?

I’m not sure exactly how much difference it makes, as spondylosis is a degenerative condition. However, I do believe that always having loved walking and being outside, even as a child, has helped. Just keeping moving and having that flexibility, strength and physical stamina must have had a positive effect.

Keeping your muscles strong can make a big difference in managing joint and bone issues! Do you feel like walking helps you mentally too?

Yes, I do I think it helps with feelings of stress, anxiety, and of being overwhelmed by my condition. My walks help me to put things into perspective and realise that it could always be worse. It also makes me focus more on all the people and things I have in my life that I’m grateful for.

Spondylosis can sometimes make walking difficult; has your arthritis ever made it hard for you to carry on with your walks?

Well yes, it can cause problems. In my case, sometimes walking quickly over uneven ground can jar my back and I feel it lower down where the spondylosis is, for sure! Because my condition is in my spine, it also affects the way I walk. When that happens, I just slow down and take it easier.

Are there any tools or tricks you use to help you keep going, despite your arthritis?

For hikes and climbs I use my trusty trekking poles. They help with balance and really give me that extra reassurance. My treatment clinic has also given me carbon fibre insoles, made specifically for my feet, which make walking much more comfortable.

Otherwise, the physio exercises they’ve given me have really helped to alleviate pain. A decent pair of trainers or walking shoes is also a must. I find women’s shoes very unsupportive for the feet, but I’ve found really good trainers (Asics) and walking shoes (Hi Tech) which I always wear now!

What advice would you give to someone with arthritis who wanted to start (or re-start) walking, but was worried that their condition might hold them back?

I would advise that they start with a short walk in comfortable shoes, just going at a gentle pace, and build from there. Don’t compare yourself to others or think that you’re a failure because you can’t do what they can. The worst thing you can do is worry and tense yourself up while walking.

Try not to worry about how fast or far you can go. A little bit of walking is better than none, just keep it up!

Please note: Degenerative arthritis differs from inflammatory arthritis. Always seek medical advice before starting new activities to ensure they will help, not hinder your overall wellbeing.

If you enjoyed this you might also like the following articles:

Why walking can be a game-changer for your body

I didn’t achieve my fitness goal in 2019, but it was the best year of my life

Think exercise with arthritis is out? Think again!

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