Jo Whiley reveals she struggles to pick up a mug of tea in battle against

More than 10 million people in the UK suffer from arthritis.

Here the Radio 2 host and mum-of-four Jo Whiley tells Richard Barber how she tries to stave off early symptoms of the disease

I have good days and bad days when I can’t even make a fist of my left hand.

When you can’t pick up a heavy mug of tea, you think: ‘What the hell’s going on?’ I’m 53 now and there’s no escaping the fact that I hurt much more than I used to.

My knees are fine but my shoulders and arms ache quite a lot and my knuckles are swollen and painful. I don’t need a doctor to confirm I have the early stages of osteoarthritis.

I just have to look at my mum’s and my auntie’s hands, which are pretty bad, and I can see I’m headed in the same direction.

My mum suffers from painful joint problems – as did my late grandma before her.

So I’m only too well aware of the impact of arthritis and ­rheumatism on them.

It’s been hard watching their struggle the older they get.

I’m only too well aware of the impact of arthritis and rheumatism
(Image: Coventry Telegraph)

As a family, we play a lot of ball games. The joke is that, if we’re playing volleyball on holiday, we have to use a special light ball that doesn’t hurt my fingers. If a heavy ball hits the middle finger on my left hand, oh my God, the pain is almost unbearable.

I’ve seen my mum – and dad, too – in a lot of pain from arthritis. It’s a searing, white-hot pain. She’s had two knee replacements and one hip replacement. He had an operation on his ankles last year.

They both take steroids and have regular cortisone injections.

I had a cortisone injection earlier this year to help alleviate the pain in my shoulders.

I think the ligaments were in a pretty ropey state, the legacy from taking the dogs for a walk and carrying four children who became increasingly heavy as they got older.

Eighteen months ago, I was told I might have to have an operation to repair the damage. That was a real jolt, a wake-up call.

So I’m doing everything in my power to be kind to my body.

Over the last year, I’ve watched as my knuckles have got bigger and bigger.

Eighteen months ago, I was told I might have to have an operation to repair the damage. That was a real jolt, a wake-up call
(Image: PA)

And I know, in the end, I’ll have to have that operation on each shoulder to stitch together the torn tendons. In the meantime, I’m trying to keep my joints as supple as I can by doing stretching exercises at the gym and resistance work using weights.

In other words, I’m doing as much as I can to remain both flexible and strong.

Swimming is a pretty safe way to achieve that although it does hurt my shoulders if I do front crawl. But my mood always changes. I emerge from the water feeling more positive and capable and able to deal with that difficult phone call or whatever it is.

I’m determined, if at all possible, not to suffer in the way I see my parents suffer. I just try to keep active and take vitamins on a regular basis. I take Seven Seas’ new supplement – containing turmeric, Glucosamine and Omega-3 – each morning.

I’m not only concerned with physical good health. The charity I’ve supported for many years now is Mencap because my sister Frances was born with a syndrome called Cri de Chat, a rare chromosomal disorder.

It means she has trouble communicating and is given to bursts of hyperactivity and sometimes aggression.

We had a crisis with her a couple of years ago when she had a breakdown. In fact, she had to be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.

It was a very difficult time for the whole family. I felt as if we were living through a disaster movie. I couldn’t see how there was ever going to be a happy ending.

But Mum and Dad survived. I survived. And, most importantly, Frances survived. She’s now in a decent, secure home. It proved to me that nothing bad lasts forever. It was very, very tough at the time but we got through it together.”

  • For more info please visit seven-seas.com

Joints take a pummelling

Arthritis is a condition causing pain and inflammation in a joint – and people of all ages are among the UK’s 10 million sufferers.

The most common kind is osteoarthritis, which affects eight million – mostly adults over 40.

More typical in women and people with a family history of arthritis, it occurs most often in the hands, spine, knees and hips – initially affecting the smooth cartilage lining of the joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 400,000 people – three-quarters of them women.

It occurs when the body’s immune system targets affected joints.

Symptoms of arthritis depend on which kind you have, but can include tender, stiff, inflamed and painful joints and warm, red skin over the affected joint.

There is no cure for the condition but treatments for osteoarthritis include painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids.

In severe cases surgery to replace or fuse joints may be recommended.

For rheumatoid arthritis, painkillers, anti-rheumatic drugs and physiotherapy can help.

For more tips on how to manage arthritis, visit arthritiscare.org.uk.

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