Life hasn’t been plain sailing for actress Deena Payne, whose knee problems could have ended her career

deena payne, arthritis celebrity, arthritis actressDeena Payne may be best known for her lengthy stint playing Viv Hope in Emmerdale but her fascination of health and wellbeing of mind, body and soul offers an entirely new dimension to the soap opera entertainer.

Her 18 years in Emmerdale ended in 2011, following which Deena toured the UK in Calendar Girls for nearly three years. Since then she has appeared in True Crime, On Tidy Endings and most recently in Our House. After decades of hard graft in the entertainment business, Deena should perhaps put her feet up a little, but she is a self-confessed workaholic and not just in the showbusiness arena.

“My interest in alternative medicine began in 1984 when I stumbled into a Mind, Body and Spirit Exhibition in Earls Court, London, quite by accident,” she remembers. “I was drawn to the aromatherapy oils and fuelled my interest further with a diploma course.

“I took to it like a duck to water and qualified in 1989. By then I’d added reflexology, astrology, tarot and Indian head massage to my repertoire and the spiritual side of me grew, particularly my interest in energy.”

Deena’s growing practice tied in well with the acting business and grew steadily over three years but shortly after her son was born, life changed dramatically.

“I had my son, Will, in 1992 and six months later was offered a role in Emmerdale,” she says. “The work meant moving up to Yorkshire, away from my family network and the mounting pressure of growing a character in an increasingly popular show meant that something had to give.”

Her burgeoning business may have been side-lined but Deena’s interest didn’t wane and came in useful when four years into her stint on TV she developed debilitating psoriasis.

“A combination of stress and having to backcomb my hair to play Viv led to excruciating psoriasis all over my head,” she remembers. “The doctor prescribed me something that worked temporarily but the psoriasis came back with a vengeance. Then I met Les Robinson, now my best friend, who founded The Little Herbal Company. She recommended a product that’s based on a South African potato tuber, and six months later I was totally clear.”

Knee issues

Plagued by knee problems since childhood, the implications for Deena’s acting career could have been disastrous.

“I first remember having a slight knee twinge when I was very young,” she says. “My father would be reading me a bedtime story and very occasionally as I bent my knees to get under the covers it would ‘go out’ and my father would gently massage my knee until it unlocked and I could stretch it.”

“I have always danced and in my early twenties the familiar ‘clicking out’ sensation started again. Then in 1985 during the rehearsals of Who’s A Lucky Boy at Manchester Royal Exchange my right knee ‘went out’ but didn’t go back in. It was a small cartilage tear and I was lucky enough to be near one of the top knee surgeons who operated using keyhole surgery (very new back then), filing the cartilage.

“My role in the show involved intense dancing and only six days after surgery (partly due to a very keen choreographer) I was on stage and didn’t miss a performance.”

Deena is disciplined with exercise, which is crucial for building up muscle around the knee to support it. However, the situation became more severe in 2009.

“I was squatting on the floor while wrapping a Christmas present and when I stood up my knee completely locked,” she says. “On New Year’s Eve I was in a York hospital with such a badly torn cartilage that the whole lot was removed. Again I managed to manoeuvre the operation so I didn’t miss work… in fact no one knew. Obviously I started 2010 with a bandaged knee, but regular exercising and wearing cushioned trainers for walking enabled my recovery.

“I know what I can do and am very careful, especially now that I’m 63 years old, but as a qualified Pilates instructor I feel I’m a step ahead in terms of knowing my limits and how to build myself up without damaging my knees.

“I don’t let my knee problems hold me back. I believe that you create your own reality and have just finished a book, Busting The Myths, which will be published in 2018. It’s packed with tasty recipes and explains which foods work best for our bodies and why.

“People are quick to blame others or the past for their problems, but it’s your body, your mind and your life. You can do anything you want: it’s exciting!”

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