World Arthritis Day 2021: Strictly's Joanne Clifton's Story
TV personality and former Strictly Come Dancing professional dancer, Joanne Clifton, was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis in the UK. Ahead of World Arthritis Day on October 12th, Joanne shares her story to raise awareness of the condition and how it can affect the young, as well as old.
My diagnosis story
I started to display symptoms of osteoarthritis when I was dance training in Italy and was then diagnosed with the condition following the Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour in 2015. I hadn’t realised at the time that the knee pain I was experiencing during my dance training was a symptom of the condition. It wasn’t until I was traveling and performing in the arena tours during Strictly Come Dancing Live that I realised that the knee pain I was experiencing was extremely serious.
During one of my performances on the tour one of my knees became worryingly swollen and stiff. I was in tears due to the pain and found it difficult to walk on the affected knee. I was taken to a physiotherapist who helped with the pain, however continued with the tour – as they say ‘the show must go on’ - after the extreme pain had subsided.
After the tour I was advised by a friend to get my knees checked out by a professional. I went to see my GP and was referred to a hospital for an MRI scan. My results came back, and I was in fact diagnosed with osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis in the UK. I was told then that the condition affected both my knees, being slightly worse on the one knee that I had been experiencing the severe pain. Although I was aware that my ballroom dance training caused strain in my knees, I was initially shocked when I was diagnosed with arthritis. I do blame it on over-training and carrying on with my training when I experienced pain, however I’ve come to accept my condition and would never have given up on my passion for dancing.
How osteoarthritis affects my everyday life
As my condition affects my knees, it can be painful, and my knees can become stiff, if I spend too much time sitting at home. Lockdown definitely made life tough for me as I was forced to spend more time idle and undistracted.
Being diagnosed with the condition was tricky for me at first as despite my love of dance and fitness, I was warned by medical staff to slow down. Following my diagnosis, I made the move to musical theatre, which has always been a dream of mine, even before being diagnosed. Making the move to musical theatre has been really helpful for me, as it allows me to continue with my passion for performance without needing to put as much pressure on my joints as I would need to when ballroom training.
For me, it’s really important to find new ways that I can keep on working, moving and doing what I love without letting my condition rule my life. I love to swim and take time to rest and unwind with a knee pillow on the sofa after a busy day. I’ve also recently discovered Arthr products, that are great for supporting my knees while I complete everyday tasks at home. I’ve started using The Arthr Butterfly Pillow and YuYu Hot Water Bottle to rest and unwind in the evening. I’ve also found the Car Door Mate to be great for supporting my knees as I lift myself out of the car on a busy day. The products are stylish and designed beautifully, so they fit in well with my home décor and essentials. They don’t look out of place or like an aid for my condition, which is fantastic.
What living with osteoarthritis means to me
Whilst I was worried at first that my condition would affect my lifestyle, I’ve come to accept it and will never let myself be defined by it.
Osteoarthritis does not mean that you can’t achieve your life goals and passions, for me it’s all about managing it and looking after my MSK health. I’m determined to be an example of someone who lives with the condition and still goes on achieving everything that they set out to. Hopefully, this will inspire others with the condition to do the same.
Both young and old people can develop arthritis and it isn’t something to be ashamed of. Living with osteoarthritis just means I’m more conscious of making positive and healthy lifestyle choices each day and there are products out there that can help to make your life easier, without causing embarrassment. This World Arthritis Day I want to remind people that arthritis doesn’t define a person and I’m an example of someone who is still living out their dreams. I’m doing what I love the most, performing!
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If you would like to talk to someone, you can call their free helpline number on 0800 5200 520. If you are more comfortable chatting to someone about your condition, you can chat to the Arthritis Virtual Assistant on VA's website
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