Edwina Currie speaks out about joint pain

Edwina Currie speaks out about joint pain
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If you suffer from constant bone and joint pain, you're not alone. New research has found that a stagging 78 per cent of us aged between 55 and 77 are currently in pain, with 40 per cent of those surveyed having lived with it for a decade.

The research was carried out by BMI Healthcare to mark the launch of a free new ebook, 'The Bare Bones Guide to Joint Pain' which aims to provide tips and advice on managing joint pain from some of the UK’s leading orthopaedic consultants, along with insight into some of the latest treatment options.

The introduction to the guide has been written by former politician and Strictly star Edwina Currie, and we can exclusively reveal what she has to say:

My Joints and Me

by Edwina Currie

I’m typing away right now with one leg up on a cushion. My right knee is still quite swollen, and the ankle gets that way too if I don’t give it a lot of TLC. At the end of a morning’s typing, my fingers and wrists ache. At the not-so-advanced age of 68, I’m beginning to feel like a painful statistic.  

The ankle first. That got badly broken, a compound fracture, some five years ago on a dark rainy evening in Liverpool when I took a tumble down steps in the city centre. You know what a crisp celery stick sounds like when you snap it? That was the noise I heard as I collapsed in a heap. Fortunately, one passer-by was an A&E nurse from Stoke, and the ambulance arrived in minutes, but not before another onlooker asked if she could have my autograph. “Not now,” I murmured, wincing, “I’m a little busy..”

Cue a leg in plaster, and crutches. Friends from the south of England were kind enough to ask if I’d been injured skiing. Friends in the north thought I’d been drinking (I hadn’t). But I must have been lucky with both surgeon and recovery, as eight months later I was in Strictly Come Dancing. Despite a snazzy chachacha, my partner Vincent Simone and I were voted out first. We wuzz robbed.

Hubby and I kept up the dancing and I am sure it helped. I’m convinced that staying active and remaining busy are the best remedies for our ageing joints, much as the research outlined on these pages shows. But skilled care in enabling the joints to remain whole and work well in the first place, is also essential.

So, the knee, which is still a work-in-progress.  It’s a standing joke in the family that I miss my footing and fall over quite often; one of my daughters is equally clumsy while the other is always graceful. So it’s my genes. But this accident happened on a TV programme, the sort where the “star” disappears down a chute. Underneath is a pile of foam rubber. This time, however, there was a hole in the pile, and my foot hit the deck. Outcome: a torn ligament, bruised bones, torn meniscus, and seven weeks in a leg-brace.

These days the thinking is that surgery should be a last resort; “conservative” treatment means doing very little apart from rest, ice and elevation. Hence the cushion. We’ve gone through several packs of frozen peas to reduce the swelling, usually when I’m watching other people on TV.  But take enough rest and the leg muscles atrophy, especially the quadriceps in the thigh, and then exercise of any kind can be hard work and very painful.

So now with the help of a physiotherapist I’ve settled into a regime. On alternate days I go to the gym where I cycle, gently, then do some stretches; on the other days I walk the dogs along the beautiful Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals. The scenery is lovely, the decorated narrow-boats slip past, everyone says “Good morning.” Even as it’s hurting, the sense of well-being is pervasive and I return home tired, the knee a bit sore, but happy.

I have to remind myself not to slouch and not to limp, but to walk upright, nose in the air, much as we were taught as young ladies at school half a century ago. Maybe I should practise at home with a book on my head? The words of the Liverpool surgeon come back to me; he warned that I must do as I was told in the recovery months, and that meant not too much too soon, or “You will have arthritis, and pain all your life.”

In these episodes, my treatment came via the casualty departments of hospitals, but one wise precaution was to check out the strength of my bones. The results were reassuring; the regular daily walks I normally do with our dogs (a German Shepherd and a chocolate Labrador, both getting on a bit too), were the soundest means of keeping everything in working order.

Too often, though, we can fail to take early action on persistent niggles. That pain may turn out to be nothing serious, but ignoring it is probably not the best thing to do. And if it turns out that we might need replacement joints, then the sooner we seek help – while we are still reasonably fit – is by far the best plan. Waiting till pain is excruciating is miserable and unwise. It can mean more drastic intervention is necessary. It can also mean reducing our body’s ability to recover from surgery or injury; if I hadn’t walked the dogs in the first place, and let myself get unfit, then my chances of a full recovery, both times, would have been that much more slender.

Some of those aches and pains, like my fingers, are probably inherited. My mother had knurled knuckles and twisted fingers in old age so I’ll probably go the same way – my feet are just like hers, now, all bumps and bunions. I once asked her if the process of change had hurt, and she said no, but in part I suspect she just put it out of her mind, like many of her generation. To retain flexibility she crocheted and knitted; to keep mentally alert, she read, and was a whizz at Countdown. Active till the last few days of her life just before her 93rd birthday, her final request to me was that I take her (unfinished) copy of Bridget Jones’ Diary back to the library. 

If I end up like my Mum I shan’t be too unhappy. But unlike her, I don’t fear doctors or professional advice. That’s why I am glad to contribute a few words to this campaign. Don’t put up with that pain: get up, get going, get help. Do not suffer in silence. I wish you always the best of health. Cheers!

Edwina Currie 

  • Contact your GP for initial advice.  A copy of “The Bare Bones Guide to Joint Pain’ ebook can be downloaded free here

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(Pic credit: Edwina Currie)