Living With Osteoarthritis: The Importance of Being Heard

Eli Lilly and Company  | January 19, 2021

Difficulty with mobility. Joint pain. Trouble completing day-to-day activities. These are just a few of the challenges the approximately 31 million adults in the United States who are living with osteoarthritis, or OA, may face.

As Dr. Jonathan Vigdorchik, an orthopedic surgeon, explains, people living with OA may need to make compromises, such as limiting their daily activities, which can be difficult to accept: “[My patients] might become angry. They might become more emotional … because they’re living with this hidden, indwelling condition.”

Barbara Benjamin, who has been living with OA for decades, describes that as her chronic OA pain progressed, feelings of “frustration and anger” began to bubble up. She was discouraged when she found herself no longer able to go on long walks with her husband because of the pain but refused to let her negative feelings overwhelm her. Instead, Barbara chose to lean on support from loved ones and decided to not let the physical or emotional effects of the pain “overtake” her.

Dr. Vigdorchik believes it is critical for patients to take an active role in their OA management: “It’s really important that [patients] understand the condition. I recommend that a patient really engages with their physician. It’s important to be a little bit savvy in your care to make sure that you’re being heard and listened to.”

It’s also essential that people living with OA feel heard at home. Ann Sullivan, who lives with chronic OA pain, stresses the importance of “good communication” between patients and their loved ones, recommending an “agreement with each other that when you need help, you will ask.”

To learn more about living with chronic OA pain, hear from Barbara and Ann about their journeys living with chronic pain due to OA, and from Dr. Vigdorchik below in conversation with C. Grace Whiting, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Caregiving.