While the use of painkillers tends to grab most of the headlines when it comes to coping with arthritis, the use of assistive devices also plays an important role. These simple devices can improve your ability to walk, bathe, cook, clean, and get dressed with relative ease.
"Think of arthritis as both pain and the loss of joint function. Both are incapacitating," explains John Klippel, MD, president and CEO of the Arthritis Foundation in Atlanta." One of the approaches to pain is drugs. But by and large, the approach to functional loss involves the use of assistive devices."
There is no specific test to diagnose ankylosing spondylitis, but imaging by X-ray and MRI may show evidence of inflammation of the sacroiliac joint between the sacrum (the triangular bone at the lowest part of the back) and the ilium (the bone felt on the upper part of the hip). Some symptoms may include:
Inflammatory back pain (gradual in onset, lasting over three months, with stiffness and pain that is worse in the morning and improved with movement)
Reduced mobility of the spine
Where do you begin, and what can help you the most? Check out this room-by-room guide to learn exactly how and where assistive devices can help you with the activities of daily living.
Your Kitchen/Dining Room
There are many useful aids and strategies that can help make cooking and eating easier for people with arthritis.
For example, "utensils are often small and difficult to grip for people with arthritis in their hands," Klippel says. But choosing utensils with wide-grip foam handles can make a big difference. "The handles are bigger so people can grip them," he says. Other devices that ease life in the kitchen include:
A reach extender. This rod with trigger-controlled grasp at the far end allows people to reach 26 to 30 inches and pick up small objects -- say a can of soup in an otherwise out-of-reach cupboard.
A jar opener. Once you get that jar down, open it with an automatic jar opener that clamps down on jars of any size and twists off the caps.
Door levers. Replace door and faucet knobs with levers so you don't have to grip and twist door knobs.
Chair extenders. Extenders on chair legs can elevate the seat at the kitchen or dining room table to the height at which it's easiest for you to sit. Stools, carts, or trash cans on wheels can also help.
Kitchen setup is also key. Rearrange your cupboards and drawers so you have quick and easy access to the items you use most often. This will help reduce the need for painful stretching. Raise the level of electrical appliances, including microwaves, food processors, and bread makers to a comfortable height to help relieve undue pressure on your hips and knees.