T-rex torso attempting to reach a cup in front of them

Coping with T-Rex Arms

It’s a long-running joke between my husband and me that I have T-Rex arms. In fact, I even have a funny T-Rex t-shirt I wear that jokes about short arms.

While I’ve made a joke about my arms, it is indeed very frustrating! My challenges come from a combination of not just having short arms, but also having significant elbow contractions that have severely restricted my reach and movement since I was a child with rheumatoid arthritis. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had difficulty reaching things.

When I was a kid, we placed certain items on the refrigerator door or on the edge of the shelf so that I could reach them myself when I got home from school. I had to do a lot of planning ahead to make sure my snacks were reachable!

Thankful for RA-friendly gadgets

Gadgets have always been useful for helping with my reach. I have one of those grabbers that closes by pulling a handle. But my favorite reaching tool is a long wooden stick with a metal hook on one end and rubber-coated bends on the other. It’s become such a versatile tool for reaching that I never leave home without it.

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With my “hook” (as I call it), I can open doors, push elevator buttons, and swipe at items to pull them closer to me. Really, there are infinite uses for my hook. In college, a friend dubbed it the “hook of death” because she imagined it could pull out my enemies’ brains (much like the Egyptian embalming process – note: I never actually tried this).

There have been lots of times when I’ve grabbed my hook to tap an elevator button and a stranger has made some comment about being impressed both with my tool and my skill at handling it. But I’m not sure that many people have really given much thought to the challenges of a short reach. Just about everyone has imagined: what would it like to be blind, deaf, or not be able to walk? Almost no one has thought about: what if I couldn’t reach?

The impact of RA on arm-reach

Although I joke about it, having limited reach is a problem. I’ve learned to work around it by using my hook and strategizing. And there are plenty of times when I have to ask others for help. “Can you reach that for me?” Stores are a major challenge. Why is it that it always seems the item I want is on the top shelf?! Actually, that would be bad enough, but anything above the first few is too high for me!

One situation where I have struggled with my reach is eating out. I need my glass to be closer than many waiters may be used to. Sometimes it results in a minor tug of war where I ask my husband to move my glass where I can reach it and then waitstaff move it again when they refill. However, most waiters are observant when I move my glass close and notice my shortened reach.

The struggle with T-Rex arms is real! Sometimes it is the situations and challenges I struggle with most that I make the most jokes about. Short arms are one of those things! Putting on my T-Rex shirt after a frustrating day gives me a chuckle and also reminds me of an important lesson. T-Rex is running with his short, little arms outstretched. But he is clenching a reacher and saying “I am unstoppable.” That clever T-Rex has adapted, just like me. And also (just like me), the T-Rex persists through challenges and frustrations. T-Rex doesn’t give up on his dreams just because his arms are short. He keeps his eyes on the prize and keeps going!

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