The week before Lockdown level 4 began, we started four *new private Facebook support groups for people with various forms of arthritis. Now, almost three months later, the four groups each have around 100 members actively taking part in discussions within the groups.

The most talked-about topics are medication, nutrition and exercise. Members ask each other questions about their medications, talk about side effects, and give each other motivation and guidance to ‘stick with the treatment’ as it does help. They also share what works ‘for them’ in managing their arthritis, giving useful ideas to others to try.

In between all of the useful comments, we jump in and share useful links to articles and videos that members might find helpful in managing their arthritis.

Watching the activity in the support groups has shown that online support groups have several benefits, including the ease of exchanging information. By sharing resources digitally, they become accessible at all times to the people in the group. Another advantage is the continuous availability of people to support each other. For those experiencing chronic pain, emotional support is needed at any time, day or night. The support groups have met this need as we have seen members comment and reply during all hours of the day and night, seven days a week.

Feeling less depressed and alone, achieving feelings of control and stability, finding coping strategies or tools for navigating arthritis and making meaningful connections with others has emerged as the top benefit of the online support groups.

“It was good to read through all the medications available and how they are used. Also, how to help myself with exercise, sensible eating and reducing stress.” – a comment on a post shared in a group.

The pandemic proved that staying connected online is an essential part of the future as it helps support our mental well-being. People need like-minded people who have the same or similar struggles to lean on, get advice from and to offer support to one another.

*The four new groups are for people with Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, and Psoriatic Arthritis. We have had a general arthritis group and a Lupus group for a number of years, who each have several hundred members now.

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