National Arthritis Awareness Program

How to help others understand your arthritis

pair of glasses on a book pageBeing diagnosed with arthritis is tough, but the main challenge come when you try to get your friends to understand your arthritis. In an interview with the Arthritis Foundation, Mark Lumley, PhD, professor and director of clinical psychology training at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, offers the following tips:

  • Determine how much information you want to provide when explaining your arthritis to friends. Lumley suggests to use “I have an autoimmune disease. This means…” or “I have pain in my hands. I take medication for it.”
  • The tone of voice you use to deliver your news. Are you presenting the information in a matter-of-fact fashion or as a source of embarrassment?
  • Think about empowering the other person. Encourage them to ask questions to maintain open communications. This will make you feel confident about your journey with your disease, instead of being ashamed or insecure about it.

To help your loved one understand your specific type of arthritis, you can refer them to the Disease Spotlights page on, where you can find information on adult Still’s disease, ankylosing spondylitis, fibromyalgia, gout, juvenile dermatomyositis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, lupus, osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, Raynaud’s phenomenon, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, and Sjögren’s syndrome.

Besides education from books and online resources, you can also invite your friends to stay with you for a day or two. They will observe firsthand on how life with arthritis is like. If you have complicated medications that require specific form of administration, ask your doctor if your friends can sit in on one of your appointment. Having a friend who understands what and how to administer the medication you need will help you out a bad day.

You can also consider explaining your disease to your friends in a small group setting. It will be very stressful to repeat the same message over and over. Make sure your friends know that because of your disease, you will have “down” days where you will require additional help or an energy boost from them. Learn your friends’ availability so you can determine who will be able to provide assistance in time of need.

Finally, remain positive. After all, you have arthritis, but it doesn’t have you.