LIVING with chronic back pain coupled with attempting to deal with alcoholism and depression for the best part of two decades, Margaret Hendry struggled to know where to turn.

For Ms Hendry, 59, from Edinburgh, visits to the doctor were a weekly occurrence - sometimes more often.

While taking anti-depressants, she was at the same time self-medicating with alcohol. This resulted in regular trips to A&E.

Sessions with an alcohol counsellor failed, she said, because of her complicated combination of conditions.

Six years ago, Ms Hendry was referred by her doctor to the Thistle Foundation to attend a class to help manage her back pain. Soon afterwards she completed a lifestyle management course.

Since then, she has dispensed entirely with anti-depressants and stopped drinking alcohol. Her healthier outlook on life has also helped her quit smoking.

She has been a volunteer in the gym at the charity's Craigmillar base for two years and teaches tai chi classes twice a week.

Ms Hendry says her back pain has eased as a result of being more active, and teaching makes her feel good about helping others.

"I've been able to overcome some of the things I was struggling with," she said.

"I would say to people - the help you need is out there. If I can do it, anybody can."