Helps with balance
One of the things that's quite common for people with arthritic conditions is that often the arthritis symptoms don't occur evenly in every joint. For me, my rheumatoid shows up differently in different joints in my body. I have one knee that's quite damaged and I have another knee that's kind of okay, and I have one foot that tends to flare up more than another.
I’m alright wandering around flat places, like my house or a supermarket, for example. If I'm out and about, and I have to go uphill or go downhill or take the stairs, then it is really helpful to have my walking stick. It gives me that little bit of extra stability and safety.
Gives a visible cue to others
The second reason why I love my walking stick is that it sends a signal to other people that there's something wrong with my legs. When I used to live in London, I would often find myself in situations, – particularly when I was going through train stations – where if I was walking a little bit slow, I would have people bumping into me or jostling me.
What I've found is that when I have my walking stick with me, it sends a signal to people to just give me a bit of a wide berth and not to come behind me making tsking noises that I'm being too slow. Sometimes I even get people offering to help me, which is great, and it really just helps give some visibility to my invisible health edition.
Reduces pressure on joints
One of the really frustrating things about having joint pain in my knees and feet is that when I stand up, all my weight goes onto them and it increases the pressure and the level of pain. Using a walking stick can take some of that weight off and redistribute it, and it just makes everything a little bit less painful.
Being able to keep doing things I enjoy
Now, those things, when you take them together, they all add up to one really big benefit, and that is that using my walking stick and other mobility aids really helped me to be able to keep doing the things that I enjoy. And that's something that I wish I discovered a bit sooner.
It took me quite a long while to get into using a walking stick. Even though my rheumatologist recommended it to me quite a while ago, I just had this idea in my head that you almost have to be over 70 to be allowed to use a walking stick. I know it's a very silly stereotype, but that was just the way I felt. I felt that this is just a sign of maybe getting older rather than actually a tool I can use because I've got a tricky health condition.
I also was a little bit reluctant to use it because I was worried that people would be judgmental about seeing me with it, particularly because I don't use it all the time. I only use it when I need it, so I was worried that I would get lots of questions.
I do get some questions when I'm walking around with my walking stick, but usually, that’s just people being curious or people who know me asking me why I'm using it, and that's okay. I don't mind that.
And I'm so grateful for having my walking stick. I've actually got a couple. I have one that is completely solid, and one which collapses down, which is great because I can take it with me anywhere.
That means that it gets me doing things that I wouldn't otherwise be able to do.
My favorite example of that was a couple of years ago. I participated in the Jingle Bells Run, which is a big fund-raising event for the Arthritis Foundation. I really wanted to participate and help raise some money. I knew I wouldn't be running anywhere and that I'd be walking it. Unfortunately, about a week before the event, it became very apparent that it was going to be difficult even for me to walk it because one of my legs came up really swollen.
So, I broke out my walking stick, and I did it! I managed to get around the whole course! I did it very, very slowly, and I came in as one of the last people, but that didn't matter. It was absolutely fantastic just having the opportunity to participate in the day and have a lot of fun. And I just wouldn't have been able to do it unless I had my walking stick.
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