Will changing my work life help my arthritis?

Take a close look at your work area. Think about the things you do on a daily basis, such as typing, filing, standing, lifting, and sitting. Then consider which of these create the most trouble or pain for you. Once you know, you can choose the equipment and actions that will make your work the easiest.

Use the following tips to help make your work environment more arthritis-friendly. Print out the tip sheet and keep it within easy reach.


When Seated

  • Make sure your desk chair is the proper height so that your feet can rest firmly on the ground. Your chair should have lower-back support and armrests. Some people also find that a rolled up towel or small pillow placed in the curve in their lower back can reduce back strain.
  • While seated, keep your back as straight as possible with your weight evenly distributed over both hips. That means avoid leaning.
  • If sitting causes you pain, many offices are willing to install so-called sit-and-stand workstations that allow you to work in both positions.

When Standing

  • If your job requires you to stand a lot, maintain good posture. Stand up straight. Keep your shoulders back. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart. All of these reduce neck pain and upper-back strain. To prevent stress on your lower back, avoid locking your knees.
  • Use a footrest to help ease leg and lower-back pain.

At the Keyboard

  • Use wrist rests for your keyboard and mouse pad. Many mouse pads come with built-in soft rests for extra comfort.
  • Find a comfortable keyboard. There are many versions that help keep wrists straight and at a natural angle. You can also consider an adjustable keyboard stand that allows you to tilt your keyboard downward to reduce pressure on your wrists.
  • If constantly using a mouse is painful, use a touch pad instead. There are also voice-command software programs that take the place of typing.

How to Adjust Your Space

  • Get an electric stapler if arthritis makes stapling painful.
  • Make sure that files and folders are easy to get to so that you can avoid painful bending.
  • When typing, keep important papers at eye level. Ask your office supply department or office manager for a document holder that attaches to your computer screen or stands on your desk and is adjustable.
  • If you talk on the phone a lot, get a telephone headset. This saves you the trouble of holding up the phone or using painful neck and shoulder muscles to cradle the receiver.
  • If you do construction or engineering work, ask about ergonomic or industrial aids such as adjustable worktables, blades, and guards that have adjustable angles. Also request grip pads or other adaptive materials for hand tools so that they are easier to grip.

Take a Break

  • Take 5-minute breaks throughout your day to stretch so that you help keep joints limber. Also practice relaxation and breathing exercises. This can help to keep work stress away, reduce muscle tension, and make you feel better.
  • Get up from your desk at least once an hour. When you are typing, shake your hands out between pages and lightly stretch your legs or neck. This can help to keep muscles loose and prevent your joints from becoming too stiff.

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