Connect Health has restored faith in my own ability.

Geraldine Vinall, 75 from Milton Keynes, explains how living with back and neck pain all her adult life has been transformed by attending the Connect Health group exercise classes at her local gym.

I’ve had back and neck issues most of my adult life.

I had polio when I was 10 and a back injury from a horse-riding accident at 14. At 21 I had a car crash that injured my neck. Years later that came home to roost as advanced and severe osteoarthritis in my cervical spine. I was utterly miserable from years of pain and getting increasingly disabled.


The pain has stopped me being physically spontaneous.

The pain has become increasingly more acute over the last 5 years. I have to risk assess before I move my body in any direction.


The Connect Health exercise course has got me up and running.

After 2 years of full isolation with only the dogs and TV to talk to, Connect Health has shown me the way to exercise safely and meet new people.


I’d been paying for private treatment whilst working but could no longer afford it.

As a pensioner living alone, I realised I can’t afford private practitioners anymore. I approached my GP and the MRI scan confirmed I had tendinitis and OA, but when they offered me a telephone appointment with a physio, I was rude and completely dismissive. I had a negative mindset against the whole scheme. But I did get some valuable advice.


The best advice was the loaded weights.

Then came along Charlotte (Connect Health MSK Clinician) and she took me into the gym when Covid restrictions were lifted.


Your team has really helped me find motivation and that’s so much more powerful than will power.

We walked around, she assessed my capability, discussed my history and put a programme together for me. She was so professional and courteous, she listened, showed me what you can do on each piece of equipment. She taught me precisely how to adjust my posture when I was working with weights and where in my body should feel the stretch.


Using an 8kg kettle bell with squats is a bit unusual for an old Doris with grey hair! I was now working with a sports therapist who knew about the body.

She sent me a video and I still use it. I have a selection of weights at home and I report back. I am accountable. She told me to use more weights to push the synovial fluid into the dried and damaged joints.


Connect Health was a small step on my journey but a very significant turning point. It’s opened up my physical horizons again.


I jokingly asked, can’t you just inject some WD40 into my joints and she said that’s what you’re doing when you use weights for osteoarthritis.

I was able to bend my knees fully for the first time in years. I’d start on a comfortable weight then go for an uncomfortable one and then try for the heaviest weight I could lift in that day. I was learning to listen to my body in a more specific way and work around what I could do rather than writing myself off with what I couldn’t do.


Over the years, I’d been trained to fear pain.

Eventually Charlotte started a group exercise course with Jack and a handful of us went into the gym and did a little circuit of weights and aerobic activity. It was like I’d died and gone to heaven.


There was a huge switch from negative to positive and from hopeless to hopeful.

There was a great movement from a passive acceptance of the pain levels and an actual feeling that I could be doing more and it will work.


I avoid opioids.

I’m lucky because I was diagnosed when I was young, strong and fit. A lot of our society only learn to go to the GP and ask for a prescription when they’re ill. I can’t take them as I don’t like the drugged up feeling they give me and they are addictive.


There are three things I’ve taken from my reinvention – Motivation, Accountability and Achievement.

I’m now on a 15 year plan at least. Everyone was younger than me in the group and seemed to have greater problems than me. They all believed they had to walk with a stick and not lift anything heavier than a handbag. My advice to others is believe that you can change. Take every piece of advice you are given and chose what is right for you. I’d say join a gym where they have knowledge of joint pain. That is why Connect Health has been so valuable.


Identify the true extent of the disability and don’t write yourself off.

Always look at what you could be doing rather than mourning for what you can’t do. It’s taken me years to learn this. I now feel totally capable of going it alone but I still have that support from Connect Health and I can self-refer back if I’m having a bad week.


If you’d like to find out more about Geraldine’s story, read “Age is an attitude”

Click here to download Geraldine Vinall’s Story