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Help for osteoarthritis: Devices for making it easier to live with arthritis

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

While the use of painkillers tends to grab most of the headlines when it comes to coping with arthritis, aids and gadgets also play an important role. These simple devices can improve your ability to walk, have a bath or shower, cook, clean, and get dressed with relative ease.

Arthritis involves not only pain but also loss of joint function. Medication is one approach to pain management but the approach to loss of joint function also involves using a range of arthritis aids and gadgets.

Where do you begin, and what can help you the most? Check out this room-by-room guide to learn exactly how and where these aids can help you with the activities of day-to-day living.

Your kitchen/dining room

There are many useful aids and approaches that can help make cooking and eating easier for people with arthritis.

For example, choosing utensils with wide-grip foam handles can make a big difference to people with arthritis in their hands. Other devices that make life easier in the kitchen include:

  • A reacher/grabber. This rod with trigger-controlled grasp at the end allows people to reach approximately 66 to 81 centimetres and pick up small objects -- like a tin of soup in an otherwise out-of-reach cupboard.
  • There are special jars, cans and bottle openers that make life easier for those with arthritis in the hands. There are also non-slip mats to anchor down cans or jars you are opening or dishes you are working with. You can get a kettle tipper to save you lifting a heavy kettle.
  • Door levers. Replace door and tap knobs with levers so you don't have to grip and twist door knobs. Or there are special tap turners and door openers to use with existing taps or handles.
  • Chair extenders. Extenders on chair legs can elevate the seat at the kitchen or dining room table to the height at which it's easiest for you to sit.
  • Stools, carts, or rubbish bins on wheels can also help.

Kitchen set-up is also important. Re-arrange your cupboards and drawers so you have quick and easy access to the items you use most often. This will help reduce the need for painful stretching. Raise the level of electrical appliances such as microwaves, food processors, etc, to a comfortable height to help relieve undue pressure on your hips and knees.

Your bedroom

Simple things for most of us, like getting dressed in the morning or turning on the reading lamp, can be difficult for people with arthritis, but there are a variety of aids which can help make these easier.

  • Sock aids and zip pulls. A sock aid can help you pull up your socks without bending your legs. A zipper pull, which has a large ring that attaches to a zipper tag, makes zippers easier to grab and zip up.
  • Shoes with Velcro fasteners. Try walking shoes with velcro fasteners instead of shoelaces to make everyday dressing easier. A long-handled shoe-horn makes it easier to get shoes on.
  • Big buttons and pockets. Shop for garments with large buttons, and large pockets to carry keys or other hard-to-grab objects. Women find front-fastening bras easier.
  • A reacher/grabber can help you get at hard to reach areas in your wardrobe.

Consider touch-activated lamps, which turn on with just a touch, or there are lights than can be activated by motion. Big button phones are easier to use. Special pillows, including neck pillows, can help avoid stressing your neck or neck muscles while you recline or sleep, and a large body pillow can support your arms and legs during the night. Some people with arthritis find it helpful to attach velcro tabs to the corners of sheets so that they can make the bed without tucking in the sheets.

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