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Rebecca Barnard

2016-08-17 16:04

Paula's Story

I had osteochondritis dissecans as a child, and so have always had painful knees. As a result of having an abnormal gait (or possible undiagnosed slight dysplasia), I had my first hip replacement at the age of 51, with the other done three years later. Last year I had my first knee replacement. I still have quite a lot of pain in the remaining knee, and now both shoulders as well as around the replacement joints if I overdo things.

I am an archaeologist, but the only time I was able to do a proper 'dig' comfortably was when I was a student, and we dug in Crete where the climate was hot and dry, and I was able to swim at the end of every day. So I know that warm and dry weather definitely helps, as do hot baths, but I do not feel the opposite, that wet weather makes the pain worse, though cold may have some effect.

Mostly I work as an editor, sitting on a sofa with my feet up, using a laptop. After the hip replacements I found sitting at a desk very uncomfortable, and I have always liked to put my feet up whenever I can. I find sitting with bent knees for any length of time (as for example in the back seat of a car, or on any form of public transport, or in a restaurant) very uncomfortable, and I get very stiff. I find driving painful and do as little as possible, but as we live in the country, 2-3 miles from the nearest shop and bus stop, I can't give up altogether.

I like to get outdoors for a bit of fieldwork, so my husband and I do archaeological survey work at our own pace, on the coast so that the ground is relatively level, and, as it is usually in the West Highlands, the sea breeze keeps the midges away.

Over the years I have had several hydrocortisone/steroid injections. Some did not work, and one actually made my hip worse. I did have one in 2015 for my worst knee, and it was magic, but the effect began to wear off after three or four weeks and was totally gone by eight weeks or so.

Physiotherapy has never reduced my pain, but it does help to keep things in balance. I swim regularly, and I do this really for my back and other bits of me to make sure they are not affected adversely by limping or anything else I might do consciously or unconsciously.

Otherwise swimming, hot baths and putting my feet up whenever I can are what works best for me.

I have tried various painkillers over the years, but the very strong ones make me vomit, and NSAIDs upset my stomach. For the last few years I have taken Celocoxib, which is the best drug yet for not upsetting my stomach or causing constipation. I add paracetamol, usually just morning and evening, but occasionally during the day as well. I do take a low dose of Lansoprazole. After my recent knee replacement I tried doing without the Celocoxib, but on only paracetamol I found that I got very stiff by late afternoon, so I am now back on it. I also use ibuprofen gel at night. I find it works, though I know some people thinks it is just rubbing something in that helps.

I can't see any regular patterns in my data yet, and I think there is further information you would need to help interpret it, such as the fact that I usually swim on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and so usually sleep better those nights, whatever the weather.

However, making the observations for this study has made me aware of how much better I feel if I spend a reasonable amount of time out of doors, and am moderately active, though this conflicts with the need to achieve work deadlines. When I can afford fully to retire I will definitely build walking and fresh air into my daily plans, as well as the regular swimming I do now (which correlates with better sleep).