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How playing table tennis has helped Nick live well with osteoarthritis

How playing table tennis has helped Nick live well with osteoarthritis
How playing table tennis has helped Nick live well with osteoarthritis


Nick, 75, from Derby, has osteoarthritis in his hips and right knee. He plays competitive table tennis and is also a certified coach.

Here, Nick tells us how table tennis helps with his pain and shares his tips on staying physically active with osteoarthritis.

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Living with knee pain

About five years ago, Nick was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in his right knee. He's had it in his hips for much longer.

Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body. While our joints are made of complex living tissues that our bodies continually repair and maintain, osteoarthritis occurs when our bodies can no longer do this effectively. The cartilage becomes thin and the joint can no longer move as easily as before, causing pain, stiffness, and sometimes swelling as the body tries to repair the joint.

“Over the past year my knee has become very painful,” says Nick. “It bothers me a lot. I tend to walk with my right leg very straight, as if I were using a splint, because that is relatively painless. But as soon as I bend the knee, such as when getting in or out of a car from a chair, it hurts like hell.”

Nick has had both hips replaced in the past and has been told he will need a total knee replacement. He has had steroid injections in his knee to reduce his pain and hopes to get a date for his knee replacement surgery soon.

I have to participate in a big table tennis competition in July, he says. Hopefully the steroid injection will allow me to practice for a month and then compete.

Play table tennis

Nick has been playing table tennis since he was 12 and coaching since he was 19. He comes from a family of players and says the sport is part of his DNA.

What drives me is my sport, he says. I have been a competitor, a coach and an administrator. I still coach and compete, but not at the same level as before. My goal for this year is to compete in the World Veterans Championships in Rome in the over 75 age category. That's what drives me.

Nowadays I play in local leagues, in the Derby and Nottingham regions. I also play in regional tournaments across the UK, in over 60 and over 70 age categories. This season I have played in events in Sunderland, Crawley, Wolverhampton and Norwich.

In recent years I have competed in age group events in European competitions. Last summer I was in Norway and before that in Hungary, Sweden, Germany, Croatia and the Czech Republic.

The benefits of table tennis

Staying as active as possible has been proven to help people with arthritis manage their symptoms and pain. When it comes to deciding what types of physical activities to do, it helps to find exercises that you enjoy. That way you're more likely to stick to it.

Nick's love of table tennis means he has been playing it most of his life. He notices that the sport helps him stay fit and active.

Table tennis is my main exercise, he says. It is a very fast sport. The ball can reach a speed of up to 70 miles per hour and you have very little reaction time. At a high level you have to be very fit to play, fitter than most sports.

It is an aerobic sport, but many strategic choices and tactical decisions have to be made. It keeps the brain, muscles and lungs working hard. I guess that's beneficial for an old man like me. I love it. It can be frustrating, but I love it.

In addition to the physical and mental benefits of table tennis, Nick also enjoys the social side of the sport.

“I like the competition, but also the camaraderie,” he says. It is both an individual sport and a team event. You participate in tournaments as an individual, but you participate as a team in league or provincial competitions.

Try our knee exercises. Try our hip exercises

Weight training

Nick uses a fitness machineWhen it comes to exercising with osteoarthritis, it's important to find an exercise you enjoy and do it regularly (twice a week is a good start).

You should start with small amounts of exercise that are not too strenuous and build up gradually. Everyone is different, so it's important to listen to your body and do what feels right for you.

In addition to table tennis, Nick does strength training in the gym.

“I'm trying to build up the muscle in that leg in the hopes that it will take the pressure off my knee,” he says.

My legs are definitely getting stronger. I know it won't reduce the arthritis, but hopefully it will ease the effects.

Nick's advice for exercising with osteoarthritis

Nick has advice for other people who have osteoarthritis and want to become more active.

I would say: just do it, he says. It's very easy to just think that you're in pain, that it hurts, and if you stay still it won't hurt as much. But exercising doesn't hurt as much as you think.

Maybe you have to get used to the pain so that you don't notice it so much. If you keep playing, you don't always notice the pain and you often achieve things you didn't expect. The endorphins really help too.

We are here to help

We have many resources to help, educate, and motivate people with arthritis to find an exercise routine that works for you:

  • Try Lets Move with Leon, a 12-week program of 30-minute sessions designed to help you improve mobility, posture, balance, cardiovascular and respiratory fitness and strength.
  • Come join us Let's Move Facebook groupa space where people share their experiences of staying active while living with arthritis.
  • Sign up to our Lets Move newsletter to receive advice and top tips on how to stay active with arthritis.




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