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How to Arm Yourself Against Arthritis

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Beyond Medication
Having arthritis doesn't mean you must refrain from certain activities. It means you need to modify how you do them. "You're not going to be as supple as you were in your teens or 20s," says Nortin M. Hadler, M.D., author of Rethinking Aging: Growing Old and Living Well in an Overtreated Society. "But you can still function without putting your life on hold." Try these tips to ease the ache.

Change Your Grip

  • Pick up items such as your purse with your entire hand instead of pinching them between your thumb and index finger.
  • Choose writing, kitchen and crafting tools with thick or textured handles, which take less effort to grasp.
  • Replace round knobs on cabinets with C- or D-shaped pulls -- they're more comfortable to grab -- and opt for lever-style handles for faucets and doors.

Improve Your Workspace

  • Raise your computer monitor so that you're looking straight ahead instead of leaning forward and slouching. Poor posture can make back pain worse.
  • Support your lower back with a small pillow.
  • Prevent hunching by attaching an external monitor and keyboard to a laptop.
  • Wear a phone headset to help prevent neck strain.

Simplify Your Chores

  • Install laundry machines on platforms. That way you won't have to bend over to handle clothes.
  • Use jar openers to reduce strain on your hands.
  • Choose gardening tools with wider grips and long handles to avoid stooping. Sit when weeding instead of kneeling and squatting, which are hard on knees, or use a scooter wagon.

Tame the Pain
Is it dull or burning? Does it feel worse in the morning, on rainy days or while performing a repetitive activity like playing piano? An accurate description of your pain can help your doctor prescribe the best treatment. "Pain is very individualized. Arthritis feels different depending on the person," explains Scott Zashin, M.D., co-author of Natural Arthritis Treatment. Pay attention to what you were doing when the discomfort started, where the pain is centered and how long it lasts. You may want to keep a pain diary to help you remember.

Check arthriving.com and arthritis.org for ergonomically designed items and orthoinfo.aaos.org for more posture tips.

 

Originally published in the May 2013 issue of Family Circle magazine.

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