We can’t get away with not doing everyday activities and chores at work and at home that may stress our necessary shoulder, wrist, knee, finger joints. Knowing the avoidable pain of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis could be reason enough to take the following precautions: At Work Carrying Your Laptop (and Everything Else You Tote): Instead of taxing weak finger joints by using the handle of your computer bag, wear the shoulder strap diagonally across your body. When shopping for a purse, choose one that’s lightweight and small, so you’ll be forced to pack the minimum.
Talking on the Phone: Cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder puts tremendous strain on neck and shoulder joints. Instead, try a speakerphone or headset.
Working at Your Desk: Choose a chair with good support for the small of your back, or add a lumbar cushion. To put the least possible stress on hip and knee joints, set up your desk and chair so that your hips and knees are at 90-degree angles while you’re sitting. To protect the joints in your neck, elbows, and wrists, position the computer screen so that you look straight at the monitor, and adjust the keyboard so that your arms are bent at right angles and your wrists are straight when typing.
At Home Opening Cans and Jars: A can opener with a large, soft, nonslip handle takes the stress off hand joints. An automatic jar opener means you’ll never have to wrestle with a stubborn lid again.
Handling Heavy Loads: Give finger joints a rest by using your palms or your arms instead of your hands. To transport a large package, wrap your arms around it and hug it close to your body. “This will distribute the weight, minimizing the strain on any one joint,” says Diane Sheehan-Davies (an occupational therapist at University Medical Center in Tucson). Whenever possible, slide objects rather than lifting them. At the supermarket, request paper bags, which most of us naturally carry in our arms. (Our tendency to hook two or three plastic bags over a few fingers puts tremendous tension on those small joints.)
Cutting Vegetables: and Meat Buy precut veggies and meat whenever possible. When you do chop, use a large, sharp knife and stand close enough to the counter so that your upper arm is at your side and your elbow is bent comfortably. Employing a pair of spring-loaded scissors reduces pressure on the thumb joint by popping back open after every cut.
Washing Dishes: When washing dishes by hand, keep your back straight and bring each dish toward you. (Leaning over the sink stresses the spine.) Replace dishcloths with a long-handled brush to reduce the need for twisting and turning, and maneuver the brush with your elbow and shoulder muscles instead of with your wrist. When loading the dishwasher, save steps and minimize the need to continually bend and straighten by stacking dirty china on a nearby counter and then sitting on a chair while loading the machine. Once dishes are clean, sit while unloading them onto the counter; stand to put them away. Use a rolling cart to transport dishes and other kitchen items from one place to another.
Vacuuming and Mopping: The longer the handles on your cleaning tools, the less you’ll need to bend while cleaning. Proper technique is also key: Instead of pushing mops and vacuums with your hands and wrists, employ the full weight of your body by walking just behind these tools, with your arms at your sides and your elbows bent at 90-degree angles. Newfangled mops, which squirt cleaning fluids onto floors and bathroom surfaces at the push of a button, also ease the strain on joints.