6 Life Hacks for Your Rheumatoid Arthritis

It isn’t always easy to complete your to-do list when you have rheumatoid arthritis. But cut yourself some slack! RA means you may need longer to get tasks done than you did before. You can’t do it all or everything at once. And if you try to do too much, you can wind up with more joint pain and stress.

These shortcuts, tools, and tricks can help you get things done with less pain and stress. You’ll save energy, ease the strain on your joints, and stay organized.

Call In the Troops

It’s OK to ask for help. Let others in your life know when you need them to pitch in. It’s good to stay active and independent. But some tasks may be too much for you to do on your own.

If you live with family members or a roommate, split up the household chores. Recruit neighbors to drive you to the store or take your trash to the curb. Ask your nurse or a social worker if services in your area can help with tasks that put a lot of stress on your joints. Let friends help you organize your shelves or move kitchen items so they’re easier for you to reach.

If you only need help once in a while when you’re in a flare, let them know that you won’t need them all the time, but they need to be on call if you do.

Set Realistic Goals

RA pain and stiffness can make household chores like laundry harder. If your washer and dryer are on a different floor from your dirty clothes, you have to go up and down stairs, too.

Cut back on how much you try to do all at once. Once laundry is clean and dry, only carry and hang up what you really need right now. Do the rest later. If you have family members who can help out, leave their clean clothes for them to put up.

Take breaks when you do a big task like this. Stretch your body between loads. Or just do one load a day. Don’t try to tackle the entire family’s dirty clothes at once. Take your time so you don’t exhaust yourself or wind up in pain.

Bend your knees to lift the laundry basket and carry it close to your chest, not straight out in front of you. Better yet: Use a wheeled basket to move laundry. You can even glue your basket to your kid’s old skateboard or scooter.

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Keep Track of Meds and Appointments

You might take several medications at different times each day. You also have to set up and go to regular doctor’s appointments. It’s hard to keep track of everything.

Little tricks can help you stay organized. Try to set a routine. Take your pills at the same time and place every day. If you have a new drug or your schedule changes, put a sticky note on the bathroom mirror or refrigerator door.

Set up alerts on your phone to remind you to take your meds or do range-of-motion exercises. They can also help remind you about doctor’s appointments. Hang a calendar in the bathroom or some other place where know you’ll see it every day. Write your doctors’ appointments on it.

Pill organizers can help you take the right medicines at the right time each day of the week. You can also count the tablets in the bottle to make sure you haven’t missed a dose.

If it’s a pain to get your prescriptions refilled every month, try mail-order pharmacies. Set up automatic refills for drugs so you don’t forget.

Check Out Assistive Devices

You can make or buy all sorts of tools that help you grab, grip, twist, or reach items in ways that put less stress on your joints. You can find these gadgets online or in stores.

You can also put items around your house to work in ways. One idea: Tie a bandana around your refrigerator handle. You can hook your arm through it and not have to use your hand to open the door.

Use gadgets or adapt tasks so you feel more independent. This can boost your quality of life because you don’t have to rely on others for the small jobs.  

Even driving a car can be harder with RA. It’s painful to grip the steering wheel or your keys. Wrap tape around the handle of your keys to make them easier to hold.  Add an attachment to your steering wheel or gear shift so you can use them without pain.

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Travel With Ease

Plan ahead if you need to take a trip. Pack an extra supply of medications. It may not be easy to find a drugstore where you’re going. Pack your medicine in your carry-on bag, not checked luggage. If you have travel delays for any reason, you’ll have your drugs with you.

If you plan to go on a long trip or leave the country, let your doctor know. Find out if you need to take any medication to treat or prevent illness when you go abroad. Ask your doctor what to do if you need medical care in the places you visit.

What if you have a flare and have to cancel your trip or delay it? Travel or flight insurance can protect your investment. There’s also travel health insurance that can help you cover medical costs if you get sick on the road. Plan ahead so you don’t stress out if RA disrupts your big plans.

Use Smart Body Mechanics

Change the way you use your joints so you don’t put as much stress on them. You’ll have less pain and fewer injuries.

One easy trick: Set your feet slightly apart when you stand. Or place one foot a little in front of the other to help you balance. If you have to stand up for a while, lean against a wall or chair to take the load off your body.

When you’re at work, place a rolled pillow or towel in the small of your back while you sit at your desk. Use a footrest or low box to keep your hips, knees, and ankles bent at a 90-degree angle. You can get stiff if you stand or sit for too long in one spot. Get up, move around, and stretch often. Take breaks when you need them.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on November 14, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Hospital for Special Surgery: “Mastering the Impact of Fatigue in Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

University of Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine: “Frequently Asked Questions About Living With Arthritis.”

Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care: “Everyday Life With Rheumatoid Arthritis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain: Tips for Protecting Your Joints.”

Arthritis Foundation: “10 Arthritis-friendly Cooking Tips,” “Protect Your Joints With These Housecleaning Tips.”

National Council on Patient Information and Education: “10 Tips to Help Remind You to Stay on Schedule.”

American Association of Retired Persons: “Gadgets to Make Life Easier.”

PLOS One: “Use of and Self-Perceived Need for Assistive Devices in Individuals with Disabilities in Taiwan.”

Infinitec: “Vehicle Modifications.”

CDC: “Travelers with Chronic Illnesses.”

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