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Patient stories: Elaine Stocker's Joint Pain Matters story

Elaine Stocker has lived with rheumatoid arthritis for more than 30 years. She knows a thing or two about managing joint pain that is "relentless and impossible to ignore". Despite this, she is an optimistic and determined woman. This is her story.

Elaine’s experience living with joint pain

Elaine has suffered with severe joint pain caused by rheumatoid arthritis for more than half of her life.

She has chronic joint pain across most of her body, including: her hips, knees, elbows and wrists. Elaine is not alone in experiencing joint pain in multiple joints.

Data from this year’s Joint Pain Matters campaign shows that 51.66% of respondents suffer from pain in more than one joint.

Elaine suffers in the mornings

Elaine says that her pain is worse in the mornings, but suffers 24 hours a day. She has had a broad scope of surgeries to improve her pain, including: hip, knee and elbow replacements. She has also had wrist fusion surgery (the realignment and fusion of bones in the wrist) and knuckle replacements on both hands.

Like Elaine — you might need surgery to help restore your ability to use your joint or joints. Joint pain surgery is also recommended to reduce pain or fix deformities, as supported by the NHS. If you are considering surgery for your joint pain, we have a range of specialists who can help you with your decision.

Elaine's treatment options

“Pacing yourself in life is so important,” she says, saying that plenty of rest and early nights when needed is vital in preserving her energy and reducing pain.

In addition to regular rest, Elaine also uses heat pads to help loosen her stiff joints and soothe her aching muscles.

If you also struggle with joint pain, heat treatments (in the form of heating pads, hot baths, or warm paraffin wax) relax muscles and relieve joint stiffness. Harvard Medical recommends using heat therapy for joint pain, stating:

“Heat helps improve your pain tolerance and relaxes muscles, both of which can reduce the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. Heat treatment remains a standard part of the physical therapist's practice.”

A combination of medication and regular physiotherapy has also helped Elaine manage her joint pain.

Elaine finds physiotherapy helps

Through physiotherapy, Elaine has learned a series of specialised, therapeutic exercises and relaxation techniques. She uses these to reduce her swelling, strengthen her muscles and ease her pain — especially when she is in recovery after surgery.

According to The Arthritis Foundation, physical therapy has a range of benefits for rheumatoid arthritis. These include:

  • Improving your mobility and restoring your use of affected joints;
  • Building your muscle strength;
  • Maintaining your fitness levels;
  • And reserving your ability to perform daily activities.

If you are considering physiotherapy for your joint pain, we have a range of specialists who can help you with your decision.

Elaine’s relationships and support network

Elaine lives with her husband, who is very supportive. She told us: “My relationship with my husband has been impacted over the past 30 years — both physically and emotionally. I’m lucky that my husband is amazing, though. He basically runs our household by doing all of the cooking and cleaning, because I struggle to with my pain.”

Elaine’s social life has also taken a toll because of her joint pain. Her pain sometimes stops her from enjoying activities with her friends (who are all a similar age to Elaine).

Data from this year’s Joint Pain Matters shows that 38.57% of respondents find that their joint pain prevents them from doing everyday activities, from mundane tasks to socialising with friends.

Elaine’s inability to partake in activities with friends leaves her feeling isolated at times. However, her friends are understanding of her circumstances. She says: “I am lucky that I have a fantastic set of friends that understand that tiredness is a real issue for me, and that I need to sit down when doing some activities”.

Elaine recommends always vocalising pain to friends and family in order to seek support and feel understood. She explains “Let your family and friends know when you are struggling. It could be a godsend. It has been for me.”

Elaine now works reduced hours

Data from this year’s Joint Pain Matters Report shows that 43.82% of respondents have missed work due to joint pain.

Elaine is no different.

She now works reduced hours as a School Office Administrator (in a school she has worked in for more than 30 years). When asked how her joint pain has impacted her work, she says: “My joint pain has impacted my working life hugely. I have had to reduce my working hours several times over the years and now only work every other day to allow plenty of rest in between.”

“My joint pain has impacted my working life hugely. I have had to reduce my working hours several times over the years and now only work every other day to allow plenty of rest in between. Living with pain is exhausting, but being with people at work is wonderful. It takes your mind off how you are feeling and really helps!”

Elaine admits that she is fortunate to have thoughtful colleagues who help her at work, but also respect that she values her independence as an employee.

Elaine’s employers were also accommodating in reducing her hours due to her pain. This reduction in hours has helped significantly by allowing her the time to rest, which gives her the energy to work in turn.

If you are an employer working with an employee with chronic pain — understanding chronic pain is vital to being a fair employer. There are resources available that share how employers can help employees with chronic pain.

Elaine’s advice for those with joint pain

If you are at the beginning of your joint pain management journey, Elaine recommends listening to your body. She says: “Take medication, stretch, rest and sleep. I know this will help you regain your independence and feel a bit like yourself again.

“Try to live the best life you can, pace yourself and have things planned to look ahead to. I sometimes need to cancel or change plans at short notice, but I remain a positive person and enjoy life. There are bad days when the pain can overwhelm you, but believe me — there are lots of good ones too”.

Joint Pain Matters

Our Joint Pain Matters survey had a massive response. Thanks to all who completed it. If you want to download a report of the findings, follow this link.

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