How to Tell People You Have Arthritis

Learn how to succinctly and comfortably discuss arthritis.


How do you tell someone you have arthritis? Information about the condition isn't easy to convey or explain. Arthritis is a complex condition, but there are ways to discuss it comfortably. 

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression, “elevator speech,” which is a concise summary of what you want to say that takes no more time than an elevator ride. OK, so maybe you're not exactly in an elevator when it happens. So how best to explain to someone your arthritis – succinctly and confidently – when you have only a few moments?

Information Tips

Consider these arthritis information tips from Mark Lumley, PhD, professor and director of clinical psychology training at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich.

Giving specifics. Decide how specific you want to be when you attempt to explain arthritis. Perhaps you only recently were diagnosed and still have much arthritis information to learn yourself. Rather than go into details, try saying something along these lines: “I have something going on with my hands. I'm seeing a doctor about it.” Or “I have pain in my hands. I take medication for it.” If you're comfortable sharing more in-depth arthritis information, you could start with, “I have an autoimmune disease. This means...” and explain what you know.

Use your voice. Watch your tone of voice. Do you present the information matter-of-fact or as a source of embarrassment? Whichever way you go, the person will pick up clues from you and respond accordingly. Lumley suggests you make eye contact with a bit of a smile and confidence.

Think of the other person. Empower the other person (and yourself at the same time) by inviting him or her to ask any questions about your condition. “It empowers them to be open to you and shows you how to be confident, as opposed to communicating, 'I'm ashamed. I'm insecure.'”


The Arthritis Foundation is the leading organization 
providing support and funding research to improve the 
lives of individuals with arthritis. You can help!