When you find out that you have
osteoarthritis, you may be scared and worried about
how it may change your life, work, and relationships.
It's hard to
know how fast your arthritis may progress. Your symptoms may come and go, stay
the same, or get worse over time. Some days you may feel fine and be able to do
the things you need—and want—to do with little pain. Other days the pain may be
too much for you to do simple tasks like getting dressed or brushing your
At times you may feel overwhelmed, tired, and angry. You
may be afraid that you might become disabled and not be able to care for
yourself. You may even wonder if you'll be able to continue to work. These
feelings are normal. Most people who have arthritis feel this way at one time
Some people with arthritis also feel down or depressed. They may describe this as feeling "depressed," "unhappy," "short-tempered," "blue," or "down in the dumps." If you feel like this most of the time, tell your doctor. Treating these symptoms may help you feel better and make it easier for you to do your daily tasks.
Ways to cope
Even though living with arthritis
can be stressful, the good news is that you can do some simple things to feel
better and keep the joy in your life and relationships.
- Ask your family and friends for help. Don't be afraid to let people help you with some of your
tasks, especially on days when you have a lot of pain.
- Balance activity with rest. If you get tired when you do a
task, break the task down into smaller tasks, and rest between
- Learn ways to reduce stress. Stress can make your pain feel worse. You might try deep breathing and relaxation exercises or meditation to help reduce stress and relax your mind and
- Meet with friends. At times, you
may not want to go out because you're too tired or don't want to be seen using
a cane or wheelchair. But being social can help you feel better. If you isolate
yourself, you may get depressed.
- See a counselor. Cognitive-behavioral therapy allows you to express
your fears and concerns and learn new ways of coping with
- Be creative. Find ways to still
do the things that you enjoy, but do them in a different way that doesn't cause
pain. For example, plant flowers in a raised garden bed instead of planting
them directly into the ground. Then you won't have to kneel.
- Join a support group. This is a great
place to share your concerns and hear how other people cope with the challenges
of arthritis. Online forums and chat groups are also good places to find
- Keep a pain diary. Write down how
your moods, thoughts, sleep patterns, activities, and medicine affect your
pain. Having a record of your pain can help you and your doctor find the best
ways to treat your pain.
- Educate yourself.
The more you know about arthritis, the more you'll be able to cope with any
lifestyle changes that you may need to make as your symptoms get worse.
Encourage your family and friends to learn about arthritis too. Then they can know
what you're dealing with and learn ways they can help you.
If your arthritis makes it hard for
you to do your job, talk to your boss about what changes you can make to your
schedule and things you can do to
modify your work area.
You might ask
- You can have a later start
- You can work part-time or work from home.
- You can
switch to a light-duty position, if your job involves a lot of lifting,
bending, or standing.
"good-health attitude" and healthy habits, such as
eating a balanced diet, staying at a healthy weight, and getting enough sleep,
will make you feel better and help you stay active.
think in a positive way, you may be more able
- Care for yourself and handle the challenges of
- Avoid or cope with stress, anxiety, and
One Woman's Story:
"There are so many things in
our life that we can control. And there are big things that we can't control.
But if we assume control of the things that we can, at least we feel like we're
doing something to make our lives better."—Bev
Read more about Bev and how she learned to cope with arthritis.
Support your caregiver
If a family member or friend is helping to care for
you, be sure to let that person know how grateful you are for the help.
Keep in mind that your caregiver's life may be changing along with yours.
And he or she may be dealing with some of the same emotions as you are. Talking
is a great way for each of you to share your concerns and support for each
Arthritis Foundation (U.S.)
- Quick Tips: Reducing the Stress of Caregiving