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Readers Respond: Is Having Arthritis Embarrassing?

Responses: 51


Updated September 02, 2009

I'm 39 with osteoarthritis

I have been diagnosed with severe osteoarthritis of both hips and knees. Every morning I feel like I played in a football game the night before. Stretching, leg lifts, and pain medicine help get me through the day as a HS teacher and a father of a 5 & 7 yr. old. Be determined to slow it down, not you. Life is too short to feel sorry for your self! Be thankful it is you and not your loved one(s)!!!
—Guest Scott

Arthritis is Embarrassing

I have always been the type person to fly through work, play and raising a family. It is horribly embarrassing to have to limp and barely get up from a chair in front of the people who have always considered you the superwoman of the family. I can't play ball with my grandson or even work in my flowers like I want to because I can't bend down (I won't get up if I do). I hate life like it is now, however, I love my family and my Lord, so I am depending on them to help me through this. I have a wonderful family, but it is still so embarrassing for them to see me like this! I can't stay on my feet long enough to cook like I always have, and my memory loss from the fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue is almost worse than the physical debilitation. They, along with arthritis has changed my life forever. I am only 61, but feel like I am 161.
—Guest Penni

Not embarrassing - but feel guilty

I don't feel embarrassed but I do feel a load of guilt for being sick and not able to be the workaholic I once was. People who meet me now don't know how capable I once was. I feel useless, maybe worthless.
—Guest louise

Embarrased and depressed

Two years ago I fell in a parking lot, and suffered unbearable pain. I was diagnosed with spinal stenosis & spinal OA. I was working at the time and lacked 2 hours to graduate from law school. I was a nurse before and I was eager to begin a new career as an attorney. I'd had back pain for about 16 years before I fell; yet, I worked and had a busy social & family life. Now, everything has changed. I'm 48, and I can't work, socialize, or do housework. Even with the Fentynyl patch & Darvon, I can’t walk or stand for more than 10-15 minutes and I can’t sit for more than 30 minutes without severe pain and numbness in my left leg. I'm forgetful and groggy. I sleep a lot, which is hard on my husband. I'm embarrassed and depressed. My 78 y.o. mom can do more than me and she even walks faster. I've gained weight and walk slowly. I use a cane or a grocery cart when I shop. When I see people I know, I hide. I don't want them to see me like this.
—Guest Beccaroo


It is very embarrassing. Getting up and not being able to walk right away. Having to stand there until you get your knees used to the idea of walking. I have degenerative osteoarthritis in both knees. I hate to go out with friends and be the only one that has a problem with walking or even standing straight. So I tend to stay at home. I have quit work because it has become a problem at work.
—Guest Brenda


I am 39 and have OA, bursitis, and possibly fibromyalgia. My OA is in my hips and I cannot stand or walk without pain. Like many others, getting up from a chair is difficult and I feel really embarrassed if people watch me. I've always battled with my weight and suffered from anorexia as a young adult. So I'm sensitive to being stared at when my movements are awkward or I have trouble turning over or I need to use a cart at the grocery store. I fear that people - even my own parents- assume my size is at fault when really it's my pain level. I also feel that people judge me for having arthritis - assuming they believe it, since I'm young - because I'm a big girl. I'm afraid that makes the disease my fault. But if weight directly caused arthritis, why don't all overweight people have this disease?
—Guest Yes

Not embarrassed but dependent

I was just in the hospital. As bad as it was to be a fall risk because of RA, I also found that a large amount of hospital food comes in foil packages. I can't open them myself. For one breakfast, my husband wasn't there and I needed someone to open my cereal, my maple syrup,, orange juice..etc. I rang and explained and was assured help was on the way. No one came. Fortunately the dr from my cardiologist's office, whom I had not met, returned to go over some med changes and I was forced to ask him to help me. He was very proper and polite (stiff), but when he asked about the "cereal bowl too?" I said, well I had figured I could chew my way thru that, he chuckled and all ended ok. I hate feeling so darned dependent. My husband hooks my bra, buttons my buttons when we are in too much of a hurry to use my buttoner. Just lovely.

It bugs the hell out of me...

When I have a flare up but I'm not embarrassed by it. I've suffered from OA for 25 years now. I was diagnosed at 18. My left hip. Since I work in security it can be hard to stand for 11 hour days. For 8 years I studied aikido and even got my 2nd degree black belt. Before I was diagnosed, I was depressed and missed 2 months of my first college year. I find exercise to be the best medicine although lately I have to turn to nsaids for help with the pain. Pain bugs me. Makes me angry. I think if you stay angry at the pain it helps. Something I was taught in the martial arts is that you control the body, not the other way around. If you can believe that, you can move mountains. And always remember, you're not alone.
—Guest Joe

I'm not embarrassed I'm ticked off

I'm 56 and have arthritis in my right knee and hip, as you may expect I have a noticeable limp. Having said that I could care less what people think - it's the limitations arthritis imposes on my day to day life which ticks me off. I found that the more you exercise the more flexible you become. I ride mountain bikes and dirt bikes with the 30-something group and it keeps me young and flexible. The less I do the stiffer I become. The only thing I can't do is walk more than a couple of blocks without hurting. (Saves me from those shopping outings LOL!) I crashed a car into a tree at the age of 19 and the broken bones I suffered then are where the arthritis has developed. Sure it hurts to work out but the alternative is sitting around whining about it and getting stiffer by the day. I choose to be active until I die. I wear copper bracelets (yes they work!) and take Advil when needed. That's life!!!
—Guest tom

I still feel guilty

I've had rheumatoid symptoms for 17 years and lupus symptoms for 30 years. I stopped working 9 years ago, have an artificial knee and hip and damaged feet, wrists, shoulders, ankles, veins. I am always surprised when a stranger asks me if they can help me. I still dream as a walker and runner although I use a power wheelchair at home. I think that people who know me see me as not trying hard enough, even though they know I've earned a bachelor's degree and worked 15 years in my profession before retiring. I can't seem to shake the notion that I've done something to bring this on. It has helped a lot to learn of the defects in genes that are associated with the risks in autoimmune disease. But, I confess, I have too many people in my life who believe and express the notion of divine judgment seen in some religions. Indeed, as a Christian, I have to remind myself of the blind man brought before Christ having neither himself nor his family been found guilty of bringing on the condition.
—Guest simonsez

It used to be

Early on I found RA to be embarrassing. I've lived in the same small community for many years, worked as a teacher, and am well known by most people. It doesn't bother me so much anymore because these people know what I've been through.

Not embarrassing..just upsetting because

I am so tired of people saying I'm using my RA as an excuse for not participating in some activities. I do not often ask out of offers, but all I ever hear is "I have arthritis too, and I can still do this or that." How do I respond to this?
—Guest Jann

Embarrassed? Sometimes. Surprised? Often

After a few years of living w/RA, I have limited use of my right hand, short endurance times for many activities and many, many adaptive strategies as a result. I go "In" the out doors, so I can use my left hand to open doors. I write slowly and less than beautifully w/my left hand now since my natural handedness is very painful, when it's possible at all. I ask people much older than me to do simple tasks like opening a bottle of H20. I maintain strict dietary habits which help me minimize pain and other RA symptoms. And the list goes on. Does all this embarrass me? Sometimes. But I am often surprised @ the kindness of strangers and the impatience and annoyance shown by the people I know best when they witness my struggle for functionality or are "put out" by my need to rest or refusal to eat foods that I know will encourage or irritate a flare.


I have had RA for 21 years. I came down with RA 10 months after my only child, a son, was born in 1988. I have had two total hip replacements - the right and left hips in 2000 - and in the next year or two will have to have total left and right knees replaced. Reading the responses from others made me feel better - I dread going to restaurants and getting up which is very difficult for me, let alone that I walk with a cane. I do know that if you move more you will feel better. My family and friends are a good support as needed so that is a blessing. I work part-time in an office and I am on SSD permanently. There are no two days that are alike, but I carry on and don't complain. Hopefully some day they will find a cure or something with less side effects for no more pain.
—Guest Susan


I am 28 with RA. I get embarrassed when I am in so much pain that I have to take time off work, or limp because my hip/knee/toes etc hurt or I can't hold a pen to sign a document and when I have to sit down and have a rest whilst out for a walk. I try to think positively but sometimes it's just not that easy...

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