10 Ways to Move Smarter With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Try these little moves to make living with RA easier. 

Maria Lissandrello and Susan Amoruso Jara

Whether you’re cooking, driving or taking a shower, you can make some simple modifications to your everyday movements that will allow you to dodge joint pain and keep your energy high. Just start with the rheumatoid arthritis–friendly tips below that seem easiest, then add new ones as you go!

Spare your small joints
Can’t get through the door at your rheumatologist’s office? When possible, open doors by pushing with your body rather than turning a knob or pulling a handle. And for handles that don’t turn—like on the fridge or a cabinet—simply loop a pretty ribbon or scarf through the handle, tie a bow, then hook your arm through the ribbon and use your body weight to pull the door open.

Take a bite out of joint pain 
Many people favor one side while chewing food, which can lead to inflammation in those with rheumatoid arthritis. Try alternating every 10 chews. Also, periodically check your jaw throughout the day to make sure it’s not clenched. Relax the lower jaw so there’s a slight gap between your upper and lower teeth.

Get in gear 
Does your car have a manual transmission? Instead of grasping the knob in a palm-down position, grip it in a thumb-up position to decrease pressure on your forearm, wrist and hand. Also, position the side and rearview mirrors of your car to virtually eliminate blind spots and avoid twisting and turning—two no-no’s with rheumatoid arthritis.

Don’t lift . . . slide!
Rather than picking up a heavy item, slide it. If you must lift it, get as close as you can to the object. And to avoid stressing your arms and hands, keep the item near your body while carrying it. 

Meet and greet, minus pain
Use this slight variation on the handshake: Put your hand out with your palm facing down rather than to the side. This move gives the person a chance to see the top of your hand, especially on flare-up days when you have swelling and redness. And it quietly signals to the person, “Be gentle!”

Weed without wincing
Kneeling while gardening will make it almost impossible for you to twist your back. And if you’re weeding, move as you go rather than stretching to reach that crabgrass.

Make shampooing stress-free 
Limit stress on your finger joints by keeping shampoo and liquid soap in pump bottles. Another tip: Use a two-in-one shampoo/conditioner to dodge an extra step.

Get a better grip  
Gripping the handle of a coffee cup can put too much weight on your finger joints. Instead, cradle the mug with your palms.

Power up your palms
When reading a book or magazine, use your palms to hold the object. This will keep your finger joints straight and prevent you from bending your large knuckles.

Bend with your knees
Avoid bending from the waist when unloading the washer, dryer and dishwasher. Instead, slightly flex your knees, and keep a hollow in your back. Or use a golfer’s lift: Kick back the leg opposite of your extended arm when unloading. 

Take a seat
Sit down while you dress. If one arm or leg is more stiff or painful, slip it into the sleeve or the pants leg first. When undressing, remove the stronger arm or leg from the clothing, then slip out your achy arm or leg. Letting your stronger limb take the lead will provide support when you’re getting dressed.

April 2013