How to Handle Rheumatoid Arthritis at Work
A bunch of devices can make office work a whole lot easier.
Take the computer mouse, for instance. Don't limit yourself to the traditional style. There's a verticalversion that's shaped like a video-game joystick. It's wide, so you don't need a tight grip. Trackballs and track pads let you move your cursor with a more open, relaxed hand. Or set up keyboard shortcuts that get rid of your need for a mouse altogether.
Alternatives to standard typing are available, too. Keyboards come in shapes that might be more comfortable for hands, wrists, and fingers.
"Some people find it easier to type with a stick than their fingers," Jacobs says. You can use rubber-tipped sticks with grip aids, similar to rubber pencil grippers. Or you can try a hand strap that attaches a stick to your middle finger. That way you don't have to bend your real finger so sharply to type. And voice recognition software could replace typing completely.
Try gel pads that raise and cushion your wrists in front of your keyboard and mouse. They're not for everyone, though. "For me, it was more uncomfortable," Schandel says. She prefers a drugstore wrist guard from time to time. "Whenever I have a flare-up, I just throw on my wrist guard, and off I go."
Try a document stand. That way you don't have to bend your neck to read pages on your desk. An automated page turner, or one that straps to your hand, takes pressure off your achy fingers.
Work With Your Manager
A good desk setup and some tools go a long way, but you'll need support from your employer and some flexibility, too.
It might be best to let your boss know as soon as possible that you have RA. "Then your supervisor knows, you're less likely to hurt yourself at work, and you won't overdo something that you shouldn't," Wilmarth says.
Schandel agrees. "Don't wait until you're at your worst and you're ready to quit because you can't work," she says. "Be open so that when you have a flare-up or a bad day, it's not news to them." And they can prepare for when you need to work differently from your colleagues.