Try Some Easy Fixes
Primary osteoarthritis destroys cartilage and that can make everyday activities like getting into and out of a car much more difficult. It is the most common type of arthritis and is associated with "wear and tear" of joints. It is different than rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune disease. Treatment can help ease certain symptoms but you may need to work around your condition. You have to be creative with how you move your body when you have arthritis. This can help limit stress on painful joints. A less painful way to get into the car involves backing into the seat slowly. Once you're sitting, swing both legs around together. You can do the same movement in reverse to get out of the car. Swing your legs out first then slide to the edge of the seat so you can stand up more easily. A beaded seat cover can help you do these movements more easily. Swivel seat cushions are also available to make it easier to get into and out of a car with osteoarthritis of the hips and knees.
Aids Make a Big Difference
Doing common things that many people take for granted, including pushing microwave buttons, can be difficult for those suffering from osteoarthritis joint pain. Severe cartilage destruction means bone comes into painful contact with bone. Simple everyday activities, like eating and brushing your teeth, can be challenging. Simple aids can help you work around these challenges when you have a health condition like osteoarthritis. Try placing sponge hair rollers around the handles of your toothbrush and utensils to make holding them easier. Use a dowel or a ruler with a rubber stopper on the end to push buttons on the microwave, TV, and other appliances. Quick fixes like these make living with the disease easier.
Elastic Laces Are a Good Choice
It's important to get exercise, even when you have osteoarthritis. Walking may be painful, but wearing shoes with adequate cushioning and good arch support can take the strain off of your knees. Tying shoe laces may be difficult. Elastic laces can be a big help. The first time you wear a pair of shoes with elastic laces, have someone else put them on and tie the laces for you. Leave the laces tied so you can then slip the shoes on and off easily. You can use a shoehorn if you need extra help. If you have flat feet, hammertoes, bone spurs (osteophytes), high arches, or other foot condition, see an orthopedist for treatment. You're more likely to stress joints if your gait isn't right. Wearing orthotics may help not just your feet, but your knees and hips to feel better, too. Swimming can be an ideal form of exercise for those with osteoarthritis. You're more likely to exercise when you feel well.
Why Stand When You Can Sit?
Standing for long periods of time may be challenging when you have osteoarthritis, especially in the kitchen while preparing food and doing dishes. Use an adjustable chair or stool on wheels so you can sit instead of stand during meal prep and kitchen clean up. To minimize trips to the fridge and the pantry, use a rolling utility cart to keep food items, ingredients, and spices close by. A pizza wheel is a handle item to have on hand in the kitchen. Use it to cut not only pizza but also lasagna, sandwiches, and other foods. Using a pizza wheel is easier on joints in your hands and wrists than using a knife.
Smart Moves Protect Joints
Altering the way you do everyday activities can help take the pressure off of smaller joints. Use larger joints and muscles of your body, when you can, to do activities. Hips are great for closing cabinets and doors. You can also carry large items, like a laundry basket, supported on your hip to take some of the strain off your arms. Be careful with this move if you have osteoarthritis of the hip or spine. Always use two hands instead of one to carry items like pots and pans. It's good to place one hand underneath a large item and one on top or on the side for extra stability. If you're having trouble with everyday tasks, ask your doctor about osteoarthritis treatment. Medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can help arthritis patients control pain and inflammation.
Shopping Can Be Taxing
Grocery shopping may take a lot out of you, either because you are in pain or because you don't have a lot of energy. There are more and more grocery delivery services available. Have groceries delivered to you, if possible. If you have to go shopping yourself, use the following information to make it easier.
- Be organized. Have a list and organize the list so you can pick up items in the store as efficiently as possible.
- Sit down periodically in the store if you need to rest.
- Lean on the shopping cart to take the strain off your body.
- Ask the person bagging your groceries for help taking them to the car.
- At home, include family members in the task of carrying groceries into the house.
- Once inside, put away the perishables first. You can rest if you need to before unpacking nonperishable items.
Don't Stress Your Knees
Lifting something heavy while bending at the waist is a risk factor for a back injury. To lift something heavy, experts generally recommend you should squat to protect the health of your back. However, squatting can be tough on osteoarthritis knees. Doing squats is a great exercise to build up the strength in your hips and legs. If your doctor says it is safe for you, go ahead and squat, but do it right. Support your body as much as possible by holding on to a heavy piece of furniture or the edge of a countertop. Do not let your knees go beyond your ankles. Keep proper alignment to protect your knees. You can do squats over a chair in case you get too tired or have too much pain. That way you can sit down easily. People with osteoarthritis must move in ways that protect their joints. If knee osteoarthritis is severe, injections to the knee joint or knee replacement surgery may be treatment options.
Break Up Large Tasks
When you have a diagnosis like osteoarthritis, you may have to alter your routine to avoid pain and injury. When it comes to housework, avoid doing too much in one day. You don't want your symptoms to flare. Clean one room or section of the house per day to avoid overuse injuries. Bring all the cleaning solutions, dust cloths, vacuum, broom, and other supplies you need with you at once to minimize trips to and from the area where you store them. Listen to your body and take breaks when you need to. Take special care of knees if you have knee osteoarthritis. Stop and take a rest if pain or other symptoms occur while you're doing tasks. Over time, you'll develop strategies for doing the tasks you need to do safely despite your disease.
Be Careful with Osteoarthritis of the Knee
Climbing up and down stairs can be tough if you have hip osteoarthritis or osteoarthritis of the knee. Patients should avoid doing activities that aggravate knee osteoarthritis, if possible. Take the elevator and avoid stairs, if you can. If you cannot avoid stairs, use the handrail for support. To minimize knee pain, favor your better leg by leading with it to go upstairs. Lead with the bad leg while going downstairs. Remember the saying, "up with the good and down with the bad," to minimize symptoms. Osteoarthritis is a frustrating disease because it can affect your ability to do everyday activities. Concentrate on what you can do to avoid pain and provoking further degeneration. Armed with the right information, patients can be active and avoid common mistakes. If you're having difficulty climbing stairs or doing other activities, see your doctor to discuss treatment and minimize joint injury. Severe osteoarthritis can lead to deformity and falls.
Arthritis Makes Common Tasks More Difficult
Taking a bath or a shower may be harder when you have osteoarthritis. In general, warm water is good for arthritis pain and can help ease symptoms. Stiffness and bone on bone pain from degenerative arthritis can make it more difficult to bathe, but you can work around the disease. Use a loofah or shower mitt to make it easier to reach hard to reach places. This also eases pressure on finger joints. If getting into the tub is difficult, place a towel on the edge. Sit on it and swivel around to both get into and out of the bathtub. Use a soap on a rope if you have a diagnosis of arthritis in finger joints that makes picking up soap difficult. If drying off causes pain, step into a thick robe to dry off instead of rubbing and patting dry with a towel. Drying off the usual way may affect your symptoms.
Osteoarthritis Can Impact Sleep
Osteoarthritis is a condition that may affect the ability to do everyday activities, including sleep. Patients with arthritis may experience joint pain and swelling that may it hard to get to sleep and stay asleep. Try taking pain medication like ibuprofen, one of the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), with dinner to ease arthritis pain and swelling. Take a nice warm bath or shower before turning in for the night. People can use a heated blanket, hot water bottle, or heat pad to ease joint discomfort. Joints like hips may be prone to be more painful when lying down. Heat should lessen pain and make it easier to fall asleep, especially if you have osteoarthritis of the hip.
Save Joints in Your Hands
Tasks in the kitchen like opening cans or jars and chopping and peeling vegetables can be difficult if you have painful finger joints from osteoarthritis. People with the disease can learn to develop new habits and work around their symptoms. Use an electric can opener instead of a manual one. Reach for a cap gripper to open jars more easily. Choose knives, peelers, and other implements that have paddled handles. Some people with osteoarthritis may find it helpful to cook in batches and freeze meals ahead of time so they have to cook less frequently. Healthy frozen meals from the grocery store are another option if your joints are too swollen or painful to cook. Any time you can keep from stressing your joints with osteoarthritis, take measures to do so.
Pick Implements to Save Your Joints
Patients with osteoarthritis in finger joints and wrists may have a hard time with tasks in the bathroom like brushing teeth, flossing, and turning on and off faucets. Use an electric toothbrush instead of a manual toothbrush. Use a dental floss holder to minimize finger strain that can occur while flossing. Put special grips on faucets to make them easier to turn on and off. If sore hips make it difficult to use the toilet, install a raised toilet seat to help. Install grab bars around the toilet and in the shower stall for extra support and to minimize the risk of falls. There are even special aids to make it easier for you to open medication bottles.
Work around Joint Symptoms
Tasks at work that include sitting at a desk, typing, and other activities may be more difficult for people who have osteoarthritis to do. Reduce the possibility of further joint symptoms by ensuring you have an ergonomic set up. Sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor or with a foot riser if you have back problems. Your forearms should be parallel to the desk. Bend your elbows at a 90 degree angle and hold them close to your body while you type. Use a headset instead of awkwardly holding the phone between your chin and shoulder. Improper work station ergonomics are a risk factor for injuries and joint damage if you have arthritis. Your human resources representative will have information on how best to set up your work space to minimize the risk of injury. See your doctor for treatment if osteoarthritis is getting in the way of your ability to do your duties at work.
Make Life Easier
People who have osteoarthritis live with pain and the potential for further destruction to cartilage by doing activities that stress joints. Once cartilage is lost, it's gone for good. Then bone interacts with bone and it can be very painful. If walking is difficult, use a cane, walker, leg brace, or crutch. A walker may help you be more mobile. If it's difficult to open doors, use a doorknob extender that turns knobs into easier to use levers. Get a universal remote for the TV that has large buttons. If dressing is difficult, use zipper pulls and clothes and shoes with Velcro. Use a shoehorn to put on shoes and there are even devices to help you put on socks more easily. A tool called a key turner can help you start your car and open keyed doors more easily. People who are having trouble doing everyday activities, working, or engaging in hobbies can see an occupational therapist. Treatment with this kind of therapist can help you work around physical and other limitations to be able to do the things you need and want to do. They have information about how to best do activities while protecting your health. For severe osteoarthritis, talk to your doctor about treatment options or clinical trials that may provide relief.
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- Clinics in Geriatric Medicine: “The Contribution of Osteoarthritis to Functional Limitations and Disability."
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Handout on Health: Osteoarthritis."