9 Ways to Make Your Workday Easier With RA

Rheumatoid arthritis can affect every part of your life, including your job. Does your workspace make it easier on you? If not, there's a lot you can do to change that.

Whether you’re on your feet all day or you sit in front of a computer, use these nine tips to feel better.

1. Pay Attention to Posture

Whether you sit or stand on the job, good posture is extra important with RA. If yours is off, it will stress your joints and can boost fatigue, even when you’re sitting down.

To get back in alignment, imagine a string from the ceiling to the top of your head. Then lift your head, neck, and shoulders upward along that string. Keep your shoulders relaxed and your pelvis upright -- don’t let it tilt forward or backward. And don’t lock your knees.

2. Mix Up Positions and Tasks

If you work at a desk, make it a point to get up and move around throughout the day. Stretch at your desk, go for a brisk walk at lunchtime, and take the long way to the fax machine or restroom. If you can, switch between standing and sitting.

Try to do different things during the day to give your joints a rest. If your job involves repetitive movement, such as turning bolts on machinery or typing, break it up with other duties if possible. Switch back and forth between light and heavy tasks.

3. Tweak Your Stance

Do you stand for most of your workday? It helps to put one foot on a step, low stool, or book so that it’s a little higher than the other. This helps keep your pelvis in alignment. Switch feet every now and then.

Women who wear high heels might want to reconsider their footwear. Go for shoes with good cushioning and support -- and keep heels to an inch high or less. Special inserts in your shoes (orthotics) may also help.

Organize your work area to make it easier on your joints, so that you don't have to lift, reach, or carry too much. If you work in different areas throughout the day, consider whether an apron or tool belt would be an appropriate way to carry the items you need.

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4. Rethink Your Chair

Make sure your chair has lower back support. Ask for an ergonomic chair that supports your lower spine, reclines, and rotates or swivels so you can move easily from one task to another.

If your chair doesn't have back support, put a pillow or rolled-up towel between your lower back and the chair. Sit straight with your back and shoulders against the back of the chair.

You may also need to adjust the height of your desk and chair. You should be able to sit with your feet flat on the floor, with your knees slightly higher than your hips. Prop your feet on a stool or book, if necessary.

5. Rethink Your Computer

Try to keep your elbows at a right angle and your wrists relaxed when you type. Keyboard wrist rests add support. Tilt the keyboard down and slightly away from you to take the strain off your wrists. The computer monitor should be directly in front of you (not off to the side) at eye level.

6. Troubleshoot Your Telephone

Don’t cradle the telephone receiver between your shoulder and ear. It leads to shoulder and back pain, and fatigue. If you're on the phone a lot, use a headset receiver instead.

7. Lift the Right Way

Use your largest and strongest joints to lift items. For instance, always use your leg muscles, bending at the knees, not the waist. Steady yourself with a heavy chair or other piece of furniture if you need to.

Rely on your arms to lift rather than your hands. Use your palms or forearms - don’t grip them with your fingers. Hold your arms and the item close to your body so you don’t strain your back.

8. Ask a Pro

Your employer may be able to set up a professional evaluation of your workspace, so ask your HR department. An occupational or physical therapist can also help you learn how to do tasks on the job with less stress to your joints.

9. Consider Assistive Devices

These gadgets, which include big-grip pens and long drawer handles, are made for people with arthritis and other joint problems. An electric stapler or pencil sharpener may be easier to use than manual ones.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on May 11, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Lacaille, D. Arthritis Care and Research, Oct. 15, 2004.

How Stuff Works: "How to Prevent Arthritis Pain."

Spine Universe: "Is Your Work Space Spine-Friendly?"

RA: "RA Management: A Practical Guide."

Koehn, C., Palmer, T., Esdaile, J. Rheumatoid Arthritis: Plan to Win, Oxford University Press US, 2001.

WebMD Medical Reference: "Assistive Devices for Rheumatoid Arthritis."

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