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Leslie Hussey


The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), such as pain, fatigue, stiffness, and inflammation, limit individuals’ abilities to care for themselves, participate in social events, and complete tasks associated with gender norms. RA is a chronic and debilitating disease that people struggle to cope with physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, and financially, but many have not established effective coping and support strategies. The purpose of this hermeneutic phenomenological qualitative study guided by a combination of Orem’s theory of self-care and Watson’s theory of the human caring was to explore the coping mechanisms and support strategies of women and men with RA as identified from public illness blogs. Public blogs written in English from 15 women with RA and 6 men with RA were analyzed. Direct quotes from the blogs were not published to protect the identity of the bloggers. The findings of the study from men and women indicated that individuals coped with their RA by learning to conserve their energy, retiring, adopting less physically demanding hobbies, learning more about the disease and treatment options, and participating in patient advocacy. Themes from women with RA were divided into pain management, energy conservation, fertility and motherhood, and sources of support. Findings from men with RA revealed themes of self-management, physical health, RA symptoms and other diseases, emotional struggles, and masculinity. Future studies of bloggers’ experience could help to improve understanding of how people live with RA and affect positive social change by improving healthcare through better response to the needs of individuals with RA.

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