October 1, 2023

Contra Mare

Slick Healthy

Arthritis and Work Simplification

The joint pain and stiffness caused by arthritis can make physical work difficult. Completing even the simplest tasks can end up being time consuming, painful, and exhausting. Techniques exist, however, that help make work easier and less painful, allowing you to get more done during your day. Here are a few ideas on how you can simplify work.

First, alternate heavy duty jobs and light jobs. For example, in a morning you have to carry storage bins up to the attic, dust the living room, vacuum, pay bills, call your doctor, and mow the front lawn. Do the jobs in this order:

1. Carry bins to attic (heavy)
2. Call doctor (light)
3. Mow the lawn (heavy)
4. Pay bills (light)
5. Vacuum (heavy)
6. Dust (light)

Make sure to take a rest break after each job, even if it is light, to conserve your energy. (See the article entitled Arthritis and Energy Conservation.)

Next, eliminate lifting and carrying when you are able. Instead of picking a box up from a counter and carrying it across the kitchen, slide it along the counter as far as you can and pick it up when you have to. When you do have to pick up and carry objects, break the load up into smaller amounts to decrease the weight and reduce the stress on your joints. If you have access to one, use a rolling cart to push or pull heavy objects rather than carrying them.

Third, keep your body in proper alignment when completing work. When possible, keep your back straight and your hips and knees aligned. Lift an object with your back straight and your knees bent, keeping the object close to your body. Turn your whole body with your feet once you have the object off the ground – do not twist your back. Push or pull objects with your back straight and your body facing forward.

Another tip is to use the larger joints of your body when possible. Push or carry objects with your forearms instead of your hands to spread the weight of the object over a larger area. Lift with your knees instead of your back, as your knees are actually larger joints than the smaller joints between the vertebrae of your lower back. Twist open jar caps with the heel of your hand instead of your fingertips.

Finally, use adaptive devices when you can to help complete work. Large handled and long handled tools, rolling carts, opening devices, and numerous other gadgets are readily available and are inexpensive to obtain. Another article in this series will go into more detail about adaptive devices.

These techniques can be used on a job site as well. Talk to your employer about adapting your job to incorporate work simplification, as most employers would rather allow a few adaptations that go through the expense of hiring a new employee. If you put it in terms of cost savings, most employers are willing to listen to your proposals.

By using work simplification techniques, you will be able to reduce strain on your joints and get more work done during your day. Try these techniques and see if they help save you some pain and aggravation!