Did you know two-thirds of people with arthritis are under the age of 65, including 300,000 children? At any age, arthritis can interfere with many aspects of your life. As we enter Arthritis Awareness Month, Greene County Medical Center wants to educate you and your loved ones about difficulties caused by arthritis and ways to manage pain or discomfort.
Discover 10 everyday tasks made difficult from arthritis and tips to manage them comfortably.
1. Getting a good night’s sleep. For many people suffering from arthritis, the discomforts of pain, stress and stiffness contribute to many sleep issues. Lack of quality sleep leaves them feeling groggy and tired, and it increases their risk of diabetes, heart disease and other serious health conditions.
Tip: There are general strategies that can help you sleep better while managing symptoms of arthritis:
2. Bathing safely. Taking a relaxing, warm bath is a wonderful way to reduce pain for those with arthritis. However, getting in and out of the bathtub safely could pose a serious safety challenge.
Tip: Avoid slips and falls by making a few adjustments to your bathing environment:
Place a rubber mat on the floor to step on when getting in and out of the bath
Place a slip-resistant rubber mat inside the tub
Add rails/grab bars to the side of the tub or shower for extra support when stepping in and out of the water
3. Getting dressed. Stiff joints, sore hands and limited range of motion can make changing clothes an uncomfortable chore. Thankfully, there are creative tools and unique clothing designed to make dressing and undressing much less aggravating.
Tip: Make the dressing process easier on your joints with a few simple wardrobe adaptations, such as:
- Wear stretchy knits, shirts, skirts and pants
- Wear clothes with large openings for your head and arms
- Use closures made of velcro, ties or big buttons, instead of zippers or small buttons
- Wear items with closures in the front, rather than in the back
- Wear shoes that are comfortable, supportive and easy to get on and off
4. Driving independently. The most important thing when driving is safety, which can be threatened by arthritis. Various symptoms can hinder mobility and reaction time such as a stiff neck, hand painor slow-moving legs. For many, driving is vital to getting to the grocery store, doctors appointments, activities and work-- particularly for those who live outside city limits.
Tip: Choosing the right car and/or making adaptations to specific features will make driving easier and safer:
- A keyless ignition makes locking/unlocking the car easier on sore hands and fingers
- Seat heaters can ease an aching back
- A large trunk is helpful for storing wheelchairs, walkers and other mobility aids
- A backup camera assists those who cannot twist to look for objects when in reverse
- An electronically adjustable steering wheel eliminates squeezing or pulling levers, or straining to drive in an uncomfortable position
- Adjustable pedals create an angle that eases discomfort on the feet, ankles and hips
5. Cleaning your home. Cleaning your home can be a daunting task, especially for someone with arthritis. Cleaning uses several repetitive motions, which can cause back pain and fatigue. However, with a few simple adjustments, housekeeping can be arthritis-friendly.
Tip: Simplify your housekeeping workload with these helpful strategies:
- Use an automatic dishwasher, rather than hand-washing the dishes
- Replace faucet handles and door knobs with easy-to-turn levers
- Use no-scrub cleaners
- Use cleaning wipes instead of spray bottles
- Try Swiffer dusters instead of manually wiping dust off furniture or floors
6. Cooking with ease. Many challenges are presented in the kitchen for those with arthritis. Sore hands and wrists can make it a struggle to open containers or grip utensils. Standing at the stove for long periods of time can also cause severe discomfort or stiffness in the hips or knees.
Tip: Cooking shouldn't be a pain. Here are shopping and organization strategies to help make it more enjoyable:
- Take advantage of healthy food options that are already washed or prepared
- Move equipment that you use most frequently to storage spaces at waist or eye level
- Invest in dishes, pots and pans that are lightweight and easy to handle
7. Computing effortlessly. Computers have become an integral part of everyday life. They’re central to how we work, find information, track personal records and socialize with friends and family. However, using a mouse and keyboard can be quite challenging for those suffering from arthritis. Fortunately, there are a growing number of assistive devices available to help.
Tip: Consider using assistive technology to make computing easier and more comfortable:
- Try using a custom-formed keyboard and mouse
- Use on-screen or “touch screen” keyboards
- Rest your hands by using voice recognition software instead
- Utilize function “shortcuts” to reduce the number of keystrokes
8. Enjoying a day out. Getting out-and-about can be a difficult challenge for those with arthritis. Even leisurely activities, such as going to a museum, taking the kids to the zoo or having lunch with a friend can become a physical struggle. It’s important to stay active, both mentally and physically, and mobility promotes a sense of independence at any age.
Tip: The key to enjoying your day out is doing research beforehand so you know what to expect. Ask questions, such as:
- Is it wheelchair accessible?
- Are there wheelchairs available?
- Is there a drop off area near the entrance?
- Are there chairs, benches or places throughout the building or area where you can stop to rest or stretch?
9. Living an active lifestyle. Physical activity is the key to keeping yourself happy and healthy. However, the stiffness and pain brought on by arthritis can make physical activity the last thing you want to do.
Tip: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, starting and maintaining physical activity through S.M.A.R.T. choices is key:
- S. Start low and go slow
- M. Modify activity as needed
- A. Activities should be “joint friendly”
- R. Recognize safe places and ways to be active
- T. Talk to a health professional
10. Caregiving. Taking care of children is hard work. However, balancing caregiving responsibilities with the need to take care of oneself can be even tougher for those managing arthritis pain.
Tip: Remain involved in your children’s lives while remaining as pain-free as possible through these strategies provided by the Arthritis Foundation:
- Stay positive
- Be honest but reassuring about your illness
- Stay in charge
- Prioritize your life
Are you or a loved one struggling with arthritis? Don’t let pain or stiffness slow you down, schedule an appointment with our orthopedic specialist Dr. Jeffrey Wahl, DO today! Greene County Medical Center is dedicated to offering compassionate, orthopedic care to patients diagnosed with arthritis and chronic pain.