Loved Ones with Arthritis Need Gentle Hugs
As I child, I was very stand-offish. I didn't seem as cuddly as other children and didn't enjoy tickle fights as much as others. While classmates would hug each other immediately after being dropped off on the playground, I was satisfied with a little wave. But in reality, I was very affectionate: I loved hugs and snuggling on the couch with my family. For me, having juvenile psoriatic arthritis made the rough affection of other children too painful to tolerate.
Even as an adult, I find touch can be painful. People can be rougher than they realize, and hugs, pats on the back, and even handshakes can easily leave people with arthritis sore and achy. But it can be hard to let others know it hurts because it's almost always unintentional.
Touch can be soothing
Sometimes, pressure and touch can be soothing for muscles and joints. I love using compression gloves and socks. My partner gives wonderful massages, especially after a painful day at work. Weighted blankets can be extremely comforting. And heaven knows that a warm hug can be the best medicine during trying times.
The issue lies with jolting, bone-crushing squeezes, and firm pats. Ouch. There are times I come away from a greeting or goodbye feeling sore. Admittedly, there are some people I'm a little anxious to see because I anticipate the pain of their squeeze.
Explaining touch can be painful
It's not hard to explain to those closest to us know how painful touch can be. Partners, parents, and close friends have seen us at our worse and understand how uncomfortable some things can be. They usually know not to take a request to be a little gentler personal.
Things get a little challenging with others. I know that no one is intentionally trying to hurt me, which is why it's so hard to say something. People often don't realize that touch can be irritating to arthritis: there is no easy way to tell someone that their hugs are painful to you. The message may be taken the wrong way, and you risk your loved one not wanting to touch you in the end.
It can be tempting to hide during these times. There were quite a few kids from JA camp (myself included) with would hide during our morning stretch routine, which included giving one another quick massages. I also tended to hide in the back of my church during the sign of peace, when the congregation would shake hands and hug one another.
What I wish others knew- be gentle!
People with arthritis need love and affection as much as others. Of course, we want to hug you! You have no idea how comforting it can be to hug a loved one when you're hurting. We just need you to be gentle with us
Please be gentle: while we're not fragile, we are hurting. When you hug, wrap us in your arms gently. And don't be afraid to hold us close. Those are the best kinds of hugs- gentle, supportive, and they show us how much you care.
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