To tell or not to tell? It can be tricky deciding which people in your life you’re comfortable telling about your arthritis condition. The methods you may choose to manage your arthritis at home and at work may make you feel self-conscious. Everyone is different and has different reasons for holding back, but sometimes opening up about the discomfort you feel because of your arthritis can help. Here’s a few ideas on how to talk about your condition and maintain a normal social life.
If your arthritis is beginning to affect your social activities...talk to your friends.
It can be tempting to avoid telling your friends about your arthritis. Understandably so—you don’t want them to treat you differently or stop including you in activities and events. But staying quiet can lead to more pain and feelings of isolation.1 In fact, keeping your pain and discomfort to yourself may even negatively impact your long-term health. People with chronic pain are more vulnerable to social isolation, so if you’re able to talk to someone about how you’re feeling, it’s definitely to your benefit.1
Pushing through the pain can continue to aggravate your joints and make it more difficult to enjoy social activities.1,2 In fact, if your symptoms worsen after minor physical exertion, you may be experiencing something called post-exertional malaise (PEM), which means that some activities may need to be limited to avoid physical pain.2 Consider explaining your limitations to your social circle, but also let them know you’re still yourself. Be as open and honest as possible, and don’t be afraid to ask for help with things like grocery shopping or household chores. Spending this type of quality time together provides bonding opportunities and may even strengthen your relationships.1
If your arthritis is starting to take a toll on your mental health...practice mindfulness and relaxation.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, living with arthritis can be an emotional rollercoaster. Your physical pain can bring up plenty of different emotions—from confusion and anxiety to embarrassment and sadness, and more.3 That’s why it’s important to care for yourself both physically and emotionally to manage your stress and your mental health. For people who are living with arthritis, depression and anxiety go hand in hand with living with pain.3 Living with chronic pain may incite further depression, which in turn can make the pain feel worse.3
It’s so important to make your own mental health a priority if you’re living with any form of arthritis. This might include practicing meditation and positive self-talk to improve your mindfulness. Or you can try stretching and muscle-strengthening activities that promote relaxation, such as yoga and tai chi.2 Try engaging in these activities with your friends to help you stay motivated and keep you accountable.
If you want to continue staying active and having fun with your friends...change up your activities.
When making plans with friends, you may need to alter the types of activities you participate in. Try something active like joining a gym, doing an exercise class together or engaging in other low-impact activities like walking around the neighborhood. Light exercise not only helps keep your joints from getting stiff, but it also releases endorphins, which encourage a more positive attitude and may help your condition seem less discouraging.4
If you need to manage your arthritis on the go...pack an Arthritis Toolkit.
Put together a small bag of arthritis-friendly items, also known as assistive devices, that you can easily toss in your backpack, purse or car to carry with you when you’re out and about.5 There is an entire range of products designed to help those with mobility and grip issues due to arthritis live their lives:5
- Zipper pulls and buttoning aids can help reduce hand strain if you need to put on a jacket.
- Small pair of scissors designed to reduce hand strain.
- Rubber bands to provide more traction when opening things like jars, bottles and even doors. Carry a variety of thick and thin bands.
- Flexible drinking straws to make it easier to sip drinks at your favorite café or restaurant.
- Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel, this effective topical pain reliever is easy to open and easy to use. It’s clinically designed to relieve joint pain caused by arthritis.
Don’t let your arthritis pain hold you back from living your best life. Through friendship support, exercise and relaxation, and using arthritis-friendly items, you can maintain a healthy social life regardless of your condition.