Work. It’s good for your bottom line, but the benefits hardly stop there. Research shows that employment boosts confidence and improves mobility. One survey found that people with osteoarthritis (OA) who worked reported less pain than those with OA who did not. 

Still, moderate to severe arthritis can create work hurdles even for those able to hold a regular job. A 2010 study in The Journal of Rheumatology found that adults with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) were 53 percent less likely to be employed than those without it. Other studies have found that OA can slash productivity and increase pain in workers with physically demanding positions.

Of course, millions of Americans with RA, OA and arthritis-related conditions such as fibromyalgia have thriving careers. The key to overcoming some of the hurdles, says Saralynn Allaire, a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, “is not in knowing your limitations – most people with chronic disease are all too familiar with those – but instead learning about and utilizing the myriad resources available to help you.” Here, experts suggest how to do that in three common scenarios.

Challenge #1

If you’ve recently left a position – voluntarily or not – because your condition kept you from fulfilling its demands:

“Be honest [with yourself] about the situation,”says Jackson Rainer, PhD, director of clinical training for the doctoral psychology program at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro. Did you spend too much time on your feet, causing pain and fatigue that made you inefficient? Did the office frown on the time you took off for doctor visits? “Identifying what was wrong can help you move forward,” says Rainer, who specializes in psychotherapy for individuals with chronic and life-threatening illness. “It can be hard to admit your arthritis had a negative impact but having an accurate self-perception puts you back in control of your job search.”

Come up with a list of must-haves. Do you need close access to a restroom? Flexible work hours? Some of these may be highlighted in job descriptions; others might require some detective work during the interview and hiring process. Make sure to get what you need so you can thrive professionally, physically and emotionally at your next job.

Lead with your strengths. By law, you’re not required to disclose your medical condition – and you should not bring it up during interviews, advises Robert Hellmann, a certified career coach and adjunct professor at New York University in New York City. “Instead, talk about the positive things you bring to the table and why you’d be a valuable asset to the team,” he says. “Even if your symptoms are visible, you don’t want to convey the message that your arthritis is who you are or give a potential employer reason to wonder if you can do your job.”