Living with Arthritis: the best assistive devices to make life less painful

Updated: Nov 26, 2021



Over 6 million Canadians currently live with arthritis. That’s 1 in 5 adults. Arthritis affects women more than men and prevalence increases with age. Despite incredible advances in the medical management of arthritis, there is no cure yet. Arthritis is often thought as a disease affecting only the elderly but it affects people of every age, from infants to adults.


Arthritis is a general term referring to the inflammation of one or more joints and includes over 100 types. The review of the types of arthritis is beyond the scope of this blog, but it is however important to understand that all types may lead to significant joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and possibly deformities, making daily activities challenging.


Arthritis is degenerative in nature so prevention is key. The goal of this post is to outline some of the best and most common assistive devices available on the market to make life easier and promote joint protection. The purpose of assistive devices is to avoid both excessive force and deforming forces on joints. You might not always need them, but they are very helpful during flare ups, morning stiffness or when tired at the end of a long day.


Joint Protection Techniques

The principles behind the technology, shapes and purposes of these devices are based on the following joint protection techniques:

  • Plan your week, days and activities

  • Use the largest and strongest joints to complete a task

  • Use good body mechanics

  • Balance activity and rest

  • Avoid prolonged posture or task

  • Respect your pain

  • Minimize the effort required


Assistive Devices

An assistive device is a tool or "gadget" made to offload the stress on your joint to protect them and to save your energy. Their goal is to make your life easier! Here are our favorite assistive devices for every area of your house:


Kitchen

  • Electric can opener

  • Electric potato/apple peeler

  • Rubber jar opener

  • Jar key

  • Light-weight large handle utensils

  • Rocker T-knife

  • Rubber non slip mat

  • Light weight containers

  • Double handled pots


Bathroom

  • Grab bar

  • Wide grip hair brush

  • Foam tubing handle for toothbrush

  • Electric tooth brush

  • Bath seat

  • Long handled sponge


Bedroom

  • Dressing aids (button hook, zipper hook, key ring on zipper, Velcro fasteners)

  • Long shoe horn

  • Front closure for bras and dresses


Anywhere

  • Key extender

  • Wheeled cart (gardening, groceries)

  • Lever style door knobs

  • Rubber bands (improves grip to open lid)

  • Reacher

  • Telephone headsets


Hobbies

  • Card holder for playing cards

  • Ergonomic light weight large handle tools for gardening

  • Lightweight garden hose

  • Phone tripod, tablet holder

  • Spring operated scissors



Custom orthoses and off-the-shelf braces also have a key role in joint protection and improving function of the arthritic hand. Adding external support to the wrist, thumb or small joints of the fingers can provide improved stability and alignment, which decreases pain and allows you to get back to what matters. Physical activity and good general health are also crucial to the management of arthritis. If you would like to know more about these assistive devices and which strategies would be best for your specific situation or if you would like a targeted exercise program to stay strong and healthy, come and see one of our therapists!



 


References:

1. Badley E, et al. (2019) The Status of Arthritis in Canada: National Report. Arthritis Community Research & Evaluation Unit. Prepared for the Arthritis Society. 34 pages.

2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis. Retrieved August, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/types.html

3. Cannon, N., Mart, S., et al. (2020). Diagnosis and Treatment Manual for Physicians & Therapists. 5th ed. Vol 3. Indiana Hand to Shoulder Institute

4. Beasley J. Lunsford D (2021) The Arthritic Hand: Conservative Managemnt. Rehabilitation of the Hand and Upper Extremity (7th edition, Volume 2, pages 1209-1226). Philadelphia: Elsevier, Inc.


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