When Others Can Be Active and You Can’t

If joint pain has you feeling isolated from your friends and family, you’re not alone. Let's explore some ideas that may help.

Struggling with daily activities because of arthritis can make you feel like you're alone in your struggle, especially when your friends and family appear to be healthy and living "normal" pain-free lives. It can seem like you’re the only one struggling to keep up.

In reality, millions of other people—nearly 1 in 4 Americans—also know what it's like to deal with the challenges associated with stiff, achy, arthritic joints.1 Beyond just arthritis, if we were to look more broadly, chronic health conditions of all types affect an estimated 6 in 10 people in the United States.2 So, you are certainly not alone in your experience. 

But, when you're surrounded by loved ones who don't face chronic pain, how can you cope with the difficult emotions this may bring up for you? Let's explore some ideas that may help. 

Staying active

When you have arthritis, it's important to know your physical limits and keep yourself safe. But, being physically inactive has its drawbacks, too.

Living a sedentary lifestyle can lead to muscle weakness and deconditioning, which increases your risk for falls and can make it harder to maintain your level of independence.3 A sedentary lifestyle also contributes to weight gain, which can worsen your arthritis symptoms and increase your risk of other obesity-related complications.3

On the flip side, we know that exercise is one of the most effective ways to ease arthritis symptoms and improve function.4 By exercising regularly, you may find that you can do a lot more than you realize!

Plus, exercise is a known mood-booster and therefore a great tool to help you cope with the negative emotions you might feel as a result of your condition.5

So, it’s important to stay as active as possible, and consult with your doctor or other licensed healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist or other professional who can help you start an exercise routine that's appropriate for your current ability. 

Sharing your story

Your loved ones may be well-meaning, but if they don't struggle with arthritis, it can be hard for them to truly understand what you're going through. An arthritis support group can be an excellent place to share your story with people who can better relate to your experience. To find an arthritis support group, ask your doctor or local hospital for recommendations, or try searching online. 

Are you tech-savvy or know someone who is? Consider starting a blog where you can write more about your journey with arthritis and help your loved ones see life through your eyes. Or, share your story on a website like ReadyPatient where others with joint pain can be impacted by your experience. Click here to share your story with the content team at ReadyPatient.

Finding other ways to get involved

Your chronic pain may prevent you from doing certain things you used to enjoy socially, like hiking or traveling. If these activities are off the table for now, can you think of other activities you can do with your friends and family instead? Brainstorm with your loved ones about ways you can still get involved, such as:

  • learning an instrument together
  • starting, or joining, a book club
  • picking up a new hobby
  • going to plays and other local shows

When we stop focusing on what we can't do and start focusing on what we can do, we naturally begin to feel more gratitude. 

Talking to your doctor about solutions

Your experience with arthritis is unique, but that doesn't mean you have to go it alone. Talk to your doctor about personalized solutions that can relieve your symptoms and improve function. This may include non-surgical options like dietary modifications and medication (in addition to exercise), or surgical options like joint replacement procedures. 

Finally, try having a trusted loved one accompany you to your medical appointments. Their support and involvement may help remind you that you're not alone and can give you the confidence to advocate for yourself.  

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  1. (2020, Nov 2). Arthritis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/arthritis.htm
  2. Smyth, J., et al. (2018, Dec 10). Online Positive Affect Journaling in the Improvement of Mental Distress and Well-Being in General Medical Patients With Elevated Anxiety Symptoms: A Preliminary Randomized Controlled Trial. JMIR Mental Health.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6305886/
  3. (n.d.) How Fat Affects Osteoarthritis. Arthritis Foundation. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/about-arthritis/related-conditions/other-diseases/how-fat-affects-osteoarthritis
  4. (2020, Dec 1). Exercise helps ease arthritis pain and stiffness. Mayo Clinic.  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/in-depth/arthritis/art-20047971
  5. Sharma, A. et al. (2006). Exercise for mental health. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 8(2):106. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/

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