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How can I improve communication about arthritis with my family and friends?

The pain of arthritis and the frustration you may feel from not being able to do the things you used to do can often lead to feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression. Those who care about you the most may sense this or notice that you are not your old self. In turn, they might feel isolated from you or lonely, or they may misunderstand how you feel. That's why it's important to talk about your needs, fears, and issues with the people you love. Try following these guidelines to help you communicate with your loved ones.

  • Talk with your family about how your arthritis makes you feel. Ask them how it makes them feel. Brainstorm ways that you can work together to make life better for everyone in the household. Do the same with your friends. You might be surprised to learn that they miss you and are willing to change some of the activities you used to do together just so they can keep seeing you as much as before.
  • Talk honestly with your spouse or partner about your frustrations. If you are having trouble with sexual relations because of joint pain or stiffness, you can make adjustments. Talk with your doctor about adjusting your medication schedule so that your pain or inflammation is reduced during the times you want to have sex. Also try varying positions so that you can find one that is most comfortable. Plan for being intimate at the time of day when your symptoms are the least bothersome.
  • Make sure that your spouse, partner, or a family member is involved in your treatment plan. Ask them to accompany you on some of your healthcare appointments to learn more about your treatment. Knowing which medications you're taking or which exercises are part of your routine can improve a sense of sharing. It can also lend support.
  • Invite family members to attend arthritis support groups with you. This gives them a chance to hear how others are coping with their condition, and it also allows them to share their concerns with people who may be going through similar things.
  • Think about your arthritis as an opportunity to learn new skills. Having arthritis can encourage you to eat healthier or help you build your inner strength by finding mental balance and peace of mind. It may even help you relate more closely to your family and friends.
  • Ask your family and friends to help you reverse negative thoughts, practice visualization exercises, and develop new skills. Involving your spouse or partner in your quest to find new ways to do old things allows you to work together to learn what works and what doesn't. Studies show that regular support from family and friends can help prevent depression, boost self-esteem, and improve your ability to cope.
  • Use your own experience to know what works best to relieve pain. Is your best relief from a long soak in the bathtub or a hot shower? Do you enjoy receiving a massage? Does heat or cold work better? Do you feel better after you practice a visualization exercise? Whatever works for you, add it to your pain management program.