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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?