Things I Use Everyday for RA

Living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is challenging, but in dealing with this disease I’ve found some aids that I use (almost) every day that make a big difference in my comfort level.

Slippers

Mornings are notorious among people with RA. One of the most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, morning stiffness can make the start of the day incredibly difficult. Keeping my comfy slippers right next to my bed makes stepping out of it a little easier. I have significant swelling and some disfiguration in my feet, requiring all the shock absorption I can get. Even walking to the bathroom in my bedroom in bare feet is painful, so my slippers are indispensable. I put them on first thing in the morning and again as soon as I get home from work. A “creature comfort” for some, slippers are a prerequisite for any level of comfort when I’m at home.

slippers

Balance Air Cushion

I have a desk job, which might seem ideal for a person with RA. However, I’ve been surprised at how hard it is on my body to sit all day. Over the years I’ve found that a “stability disc” or “air cushion” on my office chair makes a big difference for my hips. It prevents me from sitting in the exact same position all day, and encourages subtle movements in my hips, which helps prevent them from locking up. While doing hip circles during bathroom breaks is still essential to getting through a day without a lot hip pain, my air cushion has become essential. Fabric covers are available, and at one point I had one, but over the years comfort has outweighed self-consciousness.

disc

Ergonomic Keyboard

Another aid that helps me through the work day is my ergonomic keyboard. Raised in the center, it puts one’s hands in a more natural position that decreases the risk of carpal tunnel, a condition those of us with RA are already more susceptible to. Typing on my ergonomic keyboard took a little getting used to, but the comfort it affords made the adjustment period well worth it.

keyboard

Splints

While my ergonomic keyboard takes some pressure off my wrists while typing, there are still many actions that put strain on my wrists. I have found my wrist splints to be enormously helpful in managing wrist pain and swelling. If I’m in a flare that affects my wrists, I wear them throughout the day. If I’m not in a flare but engaged in an activity that involves my wrists for an extended period of time, such as driving, holding a book, or typing, wearing my splints can prevent a flare in my wrists. In addition, sleeping in my splints decreases wrist pain and inflammation.

splints

Heated Mattress Pad

Speaking of sleep, I absolutely love my heated mattress pad. The gentle heat it creates helps my muscles relax, which decreases the strain tight muscles can put on joints. When I’m in a flare, cranking up the dial provides the comfort of heat to half of the surface area of my body (a heating pad is no match for a heated mattress pad). I take muscle relaxers far less frequently since purchasing my heated mattress pad, making for less groggy mornings and a slightly smaller monthly prescription budget.

heated-mattress

These are just a few of the aids that help provide some physical comfort and/or support. What are some products that you have found to be helpful? What works for you?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (14)
  • HMR2017
    2 years ago

    This is a great article, I am waiting for some new slippers to arrive right now! Never thought I’d be unable to walk barefoot. I will ask Santa for heated pad for bed as this will be my first winter with RA coming up. I’ve also ordered some compression gloves and hope they may help my hands and fingers from mummifying overnight.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks for sharing HMR2017! Yes, the heated mattress pad is a huge help. I’m having a rough time with my hips and sacroiliatic joints today, so I cranked it up to 10 and rested, and it brought enough relief for me to be able to nap a bit. I hope you find it helpful as well.

    I’m sorry you’re contending with this disease. The first year after diagnosis can be especially challenging, as this is an unpredictable disease even for those of us who have had it for many years. Please know we welcome you to reach out any time you have a question, experience, or concern you’d like to share.

    Wishing you all the best,
    Tamara

  • HMR2017
    2 years ago

    wide shoes: I walk in Keen Targhee boots, they are the widest and comfyest I’ve found but I live in Altra Lone Peak trailrunners. I used to be a trailrunner, these shoes are made to mirror the foot structure and allow toe splay. Try them out at a store first as there are many different styles.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much for the recommendation!

  • vhanson
    2 years ago

    Finding comfortable shoes for my very wide and painful feet has been such an issue!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Vhanson,

    I know exactly what you mean! Finding comfortable shoes is incredibly challenging for me as well, and many in our community share that struggle. I’ve written a few articles about it, including this one: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/boots-made-walkin-arent/. When our site asked readers what their favorite shoe brands are, there were some common responses: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/do-you-have-a-favorite-pair-of-shoes/.

    I wish there weren’t so many of us dealing with that struggle, but you can rest assured you are not alone.

    Wishing you all the best,
    Tamara

  • nutmeg8
    2 years ago

    Do you have references for where these items can be purchased? Especially the air pillow?

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi Nutmeg8, I purchased mine online, and you can find one by searching for “balance disc for office chair.” There are balance discs that are made for exercise that have lots of nubs on top that can be uncomfortable to sit on, so make sure to select one that is smooth on top and designed for sitting. If you prefer to buy from a store, an internet search may tell you which of your local retailers carry them. Good luck!

  • Dalia
    2 years ago

    Yes! I had my first bunion surgeries at 14 so warm, fluffy socks and comfy slippers that I can use arch supports in, are an absolute must. We have hardwood and flagstone floors = agony in bare feet! Trying to find more fuzzy socks but none have been right yet.

  • Richard Faust moderator
    2 years ago

    Thanks for writing Dalia. Hopefully some community members have some sock ideas for you. The hard floors may be tough on the feet, but they do tend to be less of a tripping hazard than carpet.

    One of our contributors writes about worrying that feet can get ignored in taking care of RA – kind of out of sight out of mind: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/poor-ignored-feet/.

    Another contributor, who has had RA for many years and some RA damage writes about taking care of them to get them to do what she needs: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/funky-feet/.

    Wishing you the best. Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank so for sharing, Dalia! I know what you mean about hard floors; I love the look of real tile, but it makes me wince to think about walking on. As you mentioned bunions, I thought you might relate to this article as well: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/im-sexy-bunions/. All the best, Tamara

  • Sneed
    2 years ago

    I have found that a trackball requires much less wrist & finger movement than a mouse and that is what I use most often. Occasionally I switch back to a mouse if my hands become more sore than usual but that doesn’t last long and it’s back to the TB. I’ve also found that using a wireless keyboard and mounting it on a thin board with room for the trackball or mouse off to the right lets me hold everything on my lap and provides a much more comfortable position than using it on a desk.

    The key seems to be to experiment when something becomes too uncomfortable and to look for another way to do whatever it is.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much for the tips, Sneed! I’m glad you’re in our community and appreciate you sharing what works for you with the rest of us! Best, Tamara

  • Richard Faust moderator
    2 years ago

    Thanks for all the tips Sneed. Getting an office set-up that works for an individual with RA certainly requires some trial and error (hopefully less error). In this article one of our contributors writes about RA and workplace accommodations, including suggestions: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/ra-and-workplace-accommodations/. Best, Richard (RheumatoidArthritis.net Team)

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