There are two truths everyone living with arthritis learns sooner rather than later: One, daily life and routines become a lot harder when you have joint pain and stiffness. Two, most people without arthritis, no matter how understanding, cannot begin to comprehend how challenging everyday tasks — brushing your teeth, making coffee, twisting open a door — can be.

That’s why we wrote this article. We asked people living with all kinds of arthritis to describe how their daily routines are different or more challenging. Share it with people in your life who maybe don’t quite get why it takes you 45 minutes to get dressed in the morning or why you started outsourcing your laundry. The more people in your life understand what you go through every day, the more support and help you can get.

Opening doors

“Everything about doors is challenging for me. Twisting the knobs to open them, pulling them closed, and especially knocking on them all cause so much pain in my hands. I’ve learned to either bring one of my children to do that for me or to use my elbows and feet whenever possible. I always knock by lightly kicking the door! Lever handles are much easier to deal with than knobs.” — Angie H., osteoarthritis

Doing laundry

“Standing up from a squatting position might as well be a back handspring for how impossible it feels. Add in lifting something, like a laundry basket, and it’s game over. I push the laundry basket down the hall with my feet and then hope there’s someone in my apartment laundry room who can pick it up for me. Which is super humiliating when it’s a tiny girl, by the way. But once they get it off the ground and hand it to me, I got it from there. I love those little detergent packs. No more carrying a crazy heavy container of liquid or powder. I can just put a couple packs in my pocket.” — Isaac P., osteoarthritis

Showering

“Shortly after we got married I started having all kinds of health problems, and eventually got diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. One of the things that was hardest for me was showering. All those little caps that needed to be screwed off hurt my hands, lathering my hair was impossible thanks to my shoulders, and shaving my legs? Let’s all be glad I’m blonde and so my hair doesn’t show much. For a couple of months, until we got my meds figured out, my husband had to get in the shower with me and basically wash me. It’s not as romantic as it sounds.” — Courtney L., psoriatic arthritis

Having sex

“I have severe arthritis in my hips, which makes many sex positions painful. I get a sharp, shooting pain in my groin during sex. The worst part is I’m only 23. I’m supposed to be at the peak of my sex life and yet I’m barely having any because I can’t deal with the pain and then my partner’s disappointment on top of it. I should be able to do all kinds of wild and crazy sex stuff but honestly I’d just like the chillest, most vanilla sex there is.” — Isaac 

Driving

“I take sulfasalazine to manage my arthritis and it makes me very nauseous and gives me headaches. I have near-constant vertigo. This means I can’t safely drive so I have to rely on friends and family to take me to all my appointments or the store or wherever. I’d quit this drug but it really does help the pain and my doctor thinks the side effects might calm down after awhile.” — Leslie S., ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis

Brushing your teeth

“My jaw is chronically in pain and my neck will often stiffen up during the night so when I wake up in the morning it is so hard to open my mouth or turn my head in any direction. Obviously this makes things like brushing my teeth, flossing, and eating really difficult. Have you ever noticed how much your turn your head when you brush your teeth? Or only open your jaw an inch? Now try brushing without moving either one — it’s so hard!” — Melissa K., psoriatic arthritis

Packing lunches

“I’ve always made my kids’ lunches. It was the only way to make sure they were getting a nutritious meal at school, and I enjoyed doing it for them. But on days when my arthritis is flaring, I just can’t. Especially because it’s the worst in the mornings. There are so many little things that require fine dexterity that you don’t think about until you can’t do them any more — holding the knife to spread peanut butter, opening cheese wrappers, closing zip-top bags, unzipping lunchboxes, slicing apples and carrots, screwing off a thermos lid. Now I have to let them do it themselves which they can totally do but it breaks my heart that they have to.” — Angie

Eating breakfast

“My wrists are completely fused now, which makes my arms about as useful as sticks. I still have some motion in my fingers but it’s hard to get them in the right position to do things like scoop oatmeal or pour milk when I can’t move my wrists. I make a lot of messes and just take my time. Sometimes I wear a bib. Okay, it’s technically an apron but it functions as a bib.” — Elena Z., osteoarthritis

Dating

“I’m only 30 and am still looking for someone to have a relationship with. I’m often matching with men online but I have to be so careful about our first date. It can’t be anything with a meal or I’ll make a huge mess and be embarrassed. Even coffee can be hard with fused wrists. Have you ever tried to plan a casual date that doesn’t involve eating or drinking? I go on a lot of hiking dates (using a water bottle with a straw!). Thankfully my knees are fine.” — Elena

Cooking

“Standing upright to cook causes so much back pain, especially if I’m on my feet for more than 10 or 15 minutes. Leaning over the counter to chop things, stirring thick foods (like cookie dough, my favorite), lifting pots onto the stove, carrying things from the stove to the table, there are just so many things that are trickier with my arthritis and I don’t even have any hand pain like a lot of people. I’ll tell you, having a stand mixer and an Instant Pot make a world of difference! I can use them at the table where I can sit down and then just turn them on and let them do their thing.” — Leslie

Signing paperwork

“I’ve tried to automate most of my bills but occasionally there will be something I need to sign a check for. Or sometimes I’ll need to sign papers for work. Unfortunately, my arthritis sometimes makes holding a pen feel impossible and my signature looks like a kindergartner did it! My husband got me an ink stamp of my signature for Christmas last year and it has made a huge difference.” — Juanita V., osteoarthritis

Making coffee

“Before I got my Keurig, I pretty much stopped drinking coffee because it was such a pain to make it. Pressing the filter in and opening the package hurt my hands. Plus I couldn’t safely carry a full coffee pot, it was too heavy for my wrist to support it. I either had to buy coffee or wait for someone else to make a pot! Now though all I have to do is pop in a pod, it’s genius!” — Juanita

Drinking coffee

“Drinking out of a mug was something I definitely took for granted before arthritis. Now mugs are the devil! Holding on to a handle is too difficult but wrapping my hand around the cup is a recipe for a burn. Thankfully I found an insulated travel mug that means I can grip it comfortably with my whole hand without burning myself. It has a rubber coating so it’s less likely to slip out of my hand.” — Juanita

Holding a cell phone

“I used to live with my phone permanently attached to my hand but now it’s too painful to hold it tightly. This means I’m constantly dropping it or fumbling it. Every time I have to answer a phone call I have to sit down first or else there’s a good chance I’ll accidentally hang up on them. I’ve broke so many screen protectors! Getting a grippy case and a Pop Socket on the back has been a huge help.” — Courtney

Blow drying hair

“When my arthritis flares up, I can’t do my own hair. Holding the hair dryer above my head, especially long enough to dry my thick hair, doesn’t work because of my bad shoulders and gripping it can also hurt. Now I get a professional blowout once a week and then use dry shampoo to make it last longer. Of course, my husband has to spray it for me… He’s actually gotten really good at volumizing.” — Courtney

Putting on makeup

“Makeup is also insanely tricky. I used to love doing a full face and try out new looks, but holding makeup brushes, using a mascara wand, blending eyeshadow, or applying lipstick only to my lips are all no-gos when my arthritis is bad. And I’m not trusting my husband with this one. He’s great but he can only do so much. Instead, I’ve started getting my eyelashes tinted and my eyebrows microbladed so that at least I look like I have eyes. I want to get permanent eyeliner and lipstick tattooed on.” — Courtney

Making the bed

“Just getting out of bed is hard. Then there’s making the bed. Pulling up the sheets and the comforter can be really painful and I’m definitely not smoothing out wrinkles with my hands. I’m not going to lie: I just don’t make my bed those days.” — Angela

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