The daily demands of the job can be very challenging when you have arthritis. It’s true whether you are working at a desk or at a job that requires lifting and folding. Fortunately, a few simple principles can help most people get through the day without excessive pain. Ergonomically designed chairs, desks and specific equipment can also help relieve painful joints. Here are eight tips from arthritis experts.
1. Take breaks from repetitive movements
Whether you are working at a computer or at a construction site, your job is likely to require repetitive movements. “Repetitive movements can cause repetitive stress trauma, which can exacerbate arthritis pain,” says Andrew Lui, PT, assistant clinical professor of physiotherapy and rehabilitation at the University of California at San Francisco, where he advises on people with arthritis and other joint pain. “If possible, take frequent breaks if you have to do work that involves repetitive movements. “
2. Use good body mechanics for arthritis
Whether you move around a lot at work or sit or stand in one position, your joints are less likely to respond if you keep them in what physiotherapists call a neutral position. For the knees, for example, the neutral position is slightly bent – the position they are in when you sit in a chair with your feet slightly extended forward.
For the wrists, the neutral position places your hand and forearm in a straight line, so that the nerves passing through your wrist are not pinched. The neutral position of your neck when working at a desk is with your head straight. “Whatever type of work you do, pay attention to the position your body is in,” explains Him. “Try to eliminate unnecessary tension by finding the most comfortable position. “
3. Stay mobile with osteoarthritis
Staying in one position for too long also puts pressure on your joints. “As much as possible, try to change positions frequently during your workday,” says Kimberly Topp, PhD, professor and chair of the department of physiotherapy and rehabilitation services at UC-San Francisco.
If you are often up at work, take frequent breaks to sit down. Another strategy that can help is to place one foot on a footrest while standing, to change the position of your knees and relieve your back. (Be sure to alternate between your right and left foot.) If your job involves working with your hands, such as typing or carpentry, alternate tasks frequently to change your body position. If your job is to sit down, take breaks to get up, stretch, and walk around. Office chairs that allow you to adjust positions can also help avoid unnecessary strain on the joints.
4. Lift wisely and save your joints
“If your job is to lift objects, be sure to bend your knees when lifting objects,” says Kate Lorig, RN, DrPH, professor emeritus at Stanford University School of Medicine and author of The Arthritis Help Book. “It puts less strain on your back. Hold objects close to your body to reduce the load on your arms and wrists. Store heavy items in places that minimize the amount of lifting you have to do. If possible, ask your coworkers for help if your arthritis is working.
5. Minimize joint pain and tension
“By using a little planning ahead, you can avoid unnecessary strain on bothersome joints,” Lorig explains. If you have to climb stairs for something, for example, think about anything you might need to climb or descend. This way you can minimize the number of trips you have to take.
6. Use wheels suitable for arthritis
The wheel was a great invention. So use it. Folding metal carts, wheeled tea carts, utility carts, and rolling briefcases or suitcases are great ways to move things from place to place without having to carry them around. If you are buying a cart, try several models to find the one that works best for you. Ideally, folding carts should be sturdy yet lightweight, with a comfortable grip in your hands.
7. Try assistive devices for arthritis
Today, many types of tools and gadgets are available in designs designed to minimize strain on the joints, especially the fingers and hands. Examples include:
- Ergonomic computer keyboards. Designed so that your hands and wrists are aligned to minimize pinching of the nerves in your wrist, these keyboards have been shown to reduce pressure in the carpal tunnel, which carries the nerves that control the hand. Some ergonomic keyboards are adjustable, allowing you to find the most comfortable position for you.
- Door handle extensions. These smart devices eliminate the need to close your hand around the button – something that can be painful if you have arthritis in your hands or fingers.
- Book rack. If your job is to consult books or manuals, office book racks are a great way to minimize strain on your hands. Another new option is e-book readers, which are generally much lighter than books and can be mounted on stands on your desk.
- Pencil sockets. If you use a pencil at work, purchase a pencil grip, which wraps around the pencil shaft, creating a much wider grip. Some pens come with integrated handles.
- Ergonomically designed tools. Many tools, from scissors to screwdrivers, are available in varieties designed to minimize joint pain. Because no two people with arthritis are exactly the same, it is wise to try out several models in order to decide which one is best for you.
8. Reduce stress and relieve joint pain
“The problem for people with arthritis is managing the pain, and the pain comes from many sources,” says Lorig. “Stress, depression and fatigue can also increase pain. So in addition to finding practical strategies and tools to minimize joint strain, it’s important to find ways to relieve stress and maintain a practical perspective.
Learning a few specific relaxation techniques, such as progressive relaxation or meditation, can help. Taking a little time each day to exercise has also been shown to help relieve stress and depression. “Exercise has the added benefit of strengthening joint muscles and improving flexibility,” Lorig explains. This, in turn, can help relieve arthritis pain.