(This article previously appeared on Grandparents.com.)
If you're one of the 52 million adults in the United States who suffer from joint inflammation caused by arthritis, the simplest tasks can suddenly seem overwhelming: unscrewing a jar lid, getting in and out of the car and getting dressed with all those buttons and zippers, to name a few.
Luckily, there are many tools today to help you reduce pain from everyday motions — plus, they make them easier to do.
You may protest that if you give in and use a helping tool that you will end up losing what mobility you have left. Don’t worry: Use it or lose it doesn’t apply here, says Marcy O’Koon Moss, senior director, content strategy and editor-in-chief, Arthritis Today, the health magazine published by the Arthritis Foundation.
(MORE: 7 Ways to Pain-Proof Your Knees)
“It’s important and smart to find coping strategies so you can live your life to the fullest. People with arthritis who find useful assistive devices are able to do more than they may have thought they could. Instead of saying, ‘No, I can’t do this,’ helpful tools let you say, ‘Yes, I can!’ ” says Moss, adding that when people are unsteady and joints are weak and tender, “tools help with safety, as well.”
Tools for Everyday Living
With the help of Peter and Wendy McBrair, co-owners of Aids for Arthritis, here are the most helpful tools for five different common life activities. Wendy, who is also a former R.N., certified health education specialist and arthritis patient, urges shoppers to “think carefully about what causes them pain or difficulty. Once they have those activities outlined in their mind, they will have a better idea of what product addresses their problem. As they slowly peruse products, they might see a product that they didn’t know existed that could help.” The following products can be found on Aidsforarthritis.com:
(MORE: How to Ease Arthritis — and Stay Active)
Meal Prep and Eating
- Open It: Even if you don’t have arthritis, getting into boxes and blister packages these days requires the help of Houdini. This tool has steel blade snippers and a retractable razor.
- Fiskars Soft Touch Scissors: If you have weak hands, scissoring can be painful. These spring back automatically so you don’t have to open them.
- Zim Jar Opener: Opens up everything from a toothpaste tube to five-gallon jar lids.
Dressing and Grooming
- Good Grip Button Hook: The large, rubberized handle makes buttoning clothes easier.
- Elastic Shoelaces: If tying laces is complicated, these are stretchy enough so that once they are tied, you can take your shoes on or off without untying.
- Denco Nail Clippers: Comfortable, soft-grip handles and a leverage-enhanced design let you clip with less squeezing. Plus, no twisting or folding required.
- Easy-to-Reach Seat Belt Handle: A long, flexible plastic loop enables you to grab your seatbelt without twisting or reaching. Glows in the dark.
- HandyBar: A small, hinged handle you slip into the car door frame that provides support for getting in and out of the car.
- Swivel Car Seat: A slim seat pad that turns 360 degrees so you can get in and out of the car without straining.
- Gas Cap Turning Aid: A simple handle that gives you leverage for opening and closing your gas cap, making for easier fill-ups.
Resting and Relaxation
- Bookmate: A vinyl holder that keeps hardcover and paperback books open and flat.
- Tek-Pal TV Remote: Comes with big, easy to find and push buttons.
- Cervical Support Cloud Pillow: A specially shaped pillow (with memory foam layer) that properly supports neck vertebrae, relieving upper body muscle strain and tension.
Moss also answered important questions on how to buy and use arthritis tools:
Which tools are right for me?
“At first, you have to go by instinct to see what looks useful for your particular issue, and then go by trial and error. [Ask if you can return devices.] You can also consult your physician, rheumatology nurse or occupational or physical therapist.
"One caution: Don’t get a mobility device like a motorized scooter without a recommendation from a medical professional. This is one case where use it or lose it might apply. Using a scooter full-time rather than walking eliminates the opportunity to get physical activity, and movement is key to retaining joint function and reducing pain.
(MORE: 7 Low-Tech Gadgets You Really Need)
“Also, don’t overlook items that may not be manufactured for arthritis patients per se, but just make sense ergonomically. You can find good computer keyboards, wrist rests, supportive chairs, copyholders to keep your neck straight at most office supply stores.”
Should I get training on the equipment?
“There are certain tools for which you will need training by a professional. There are right ways and wrong ways to use products that are safety oriented, like a bath lift or cane. Do you grab with one arm or two, which leg do you lift, when do you turn around? An occupational or physical therapist will come out to the home and evaluate in certain situations."
How can I tell if a product is manufactured well? Is there a rating attached?
“The Arthritis Foundation has a program called Ease of Use (EOU), in which products are tested by Georgia Tech and then a panel of arthritis patients. If you go to the site, you can see which passed or look for the Ease-of-Use Commendation logo on the product packaging.”
Get out your inner McGyver!
“There are good products out there, but don’t forget there are clever things you can do yourself to make or adapt equipment. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. For example, if you have something that’s become too small to grip, wrap tape or foam around it to make the grip larger for your fingers. There are a lot more examples here.”
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