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Arthritis Health Center

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Arthritis at Work: Ergonomics Can Help

4. Lift Wisely and Save Your Joints

“If your job involves lifting objects, be sure to bend your knees when lifting,” says Kate Lorig, RN, DrPH, professor emeritus at Stanford University School of Medicine and author of The Arthritis Helpbook. “This puts less strain on your back. Hold objects close to your body in order to reduce the load on your arms and wrists.” Store heavy items in locations that minimize the amount of lifting you have to do. When possible, ask co-workers to help if your arthritis is acting up.

5. Minimize Joint Pain and Strain

“By using a little advance planning, you can avoid unnecessary strain on troublesome joints,” says Lorig. If you have to climb stairs for something, for instance, think about anything else you might need to bring up or down. That way you can minimize the number of trips you have to take.

6. Use Arthritis-Friendly Wheels

The wheel was a terrific invention. So use it. Folding metal carts, wheeled tea carts, utility carts, and wheeled briefcases or suitcases are great ways to move items from place to place without having to carry them. If you’re buying a cart, try out several models to find the one that feels best to you. Ideally, folding carts should be sturdy but light, with a handle that feels comfortable in your hands.

7. Try Arthritis Assistive Devices

Today, many kinds of tools and gadgets are available in designs made to minimize the strain on joints, especially 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 within the carpal tunnel, which carries the nerves that control the hand. Some ergonomic keyboards are adjustable, allowing you to find the position that’s most comfortable for you.
  • Doorknob extenders. These clever devices eliminate the need for closing your hand around the knob -- something that can be painful if you have arthritis in your hands or fingers.
  • Book holders. If your work involves consulting books or manuals, desktop book holders are a great way to minimize strain on your hands. Another new option is eBook readers, which are typically much lighter than books and can be propped up in stands on your desk.
  • Pencil grips. If you use a pencil at work, buy a pencil grip, which wraps around the shaft of the pencil, creating a much wider grip. Some pens come with built-in grips.
  • Ergonomically designed implements. Many tools, from scissors to screwdrivers, come in varieties designed to minimize joint pain. Because no two people with arthritis are exactly alike, it’s wise to try out several models in order to choose the one that’s best for you.

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