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
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:
Electric can opener
Electric potato/apple peeler
Rubber jar opener
Light-weight large handle utensils
Rubber non slip mat
Light weight containers
Double handled pots
Wide grip hair brush
Foam tubing handle for toothbrush
Electric tooth brush
Long handled sponge
Dressing aids (button hook, zipper hook, key ring on zipper, Velcro fasteners)
Long shoe horn
Front closure for bras and dresses
Wheeled cart (gardening, groceries)
Lever style door knobs
Rubber bands (improves grip to open lid)
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!
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.