The pain, stiffness, and fatigue that accompany arthritis can make it difficult to accomplish daily tasks in the workplace.
About 60% of the four million Canadians with arthritis are below the age of 65. This means that many people with arthritis are in the workforce. Whether you spend your workday on a chair in front of a computer, doing manual labour, or standing on your feet in a store, restaurant, or factory, there are some things you can do to make it easier to do your job.
Assess Your Environment
- Organize your workspace for efficiency. Put commonly used items where they are easy to access without twisting or reaching.
- Look for tools that can make things easier. A chair mat can help a chair move more smoothly. A step stool will help you retrieve items from high shelves without stretching. A knee pad can provide cushioning if you have to kneel.
- If you have to stand for long periods, try standing on a rubber mat or an anti-fatigue mat. Shifting your weight periodically from one foot to the other or putting one foot on a low stool or a book can help you from feeling stiff.
- If you spend most of your day in front of a computer, there are guidelines for arranging your workstation to reduce fatigue and muscle strain. (See Guidelines for Workstation Setup below)
Adapt Your Routine
- Try to avoid repetitive motions by alternating tasks.
- Shift your position when sitting or standing for long periods and alternate sitting, standing, and walking when possible.
- Take breaks and move around.
- If you have an important meeting or presentation coming up, make sure you are well rested so you'll have the energy you'll need.
- Using proper posture can reduce strain on sore muscles and joints. (See Tips for Proper Posture below)
- Wear comfortable shoes that provide good support and promote good posture. Insoles can help decrease strain on your lower back, legs, and feet.
- If you experience pain during the day, take advantage of your lunch break to apply a heat wrap or cold wrap to relieve the pain. You can get also get relief from a non-prescription pain reliever especially designed to treat arthritis, such as Advil Arthritis Pain.
Ask for Help
An occupational therapist can offer advice that will help make routine activities as comfortable as possible. These professionals provide strategies for dealing with personal care and housekeeping tasks as well as workplace issues. They can analyze where you are stressing your joints unnecessarily and can teach you a better way of doing things.
Guidelines for Workstation Setup
- Your chair should allow you to sit straight, with your arms relaxed at your sides and your hands and wrists at a right angle to your keyboard or desktop. Ideally, your chair should have adjustable armrests.
- The height of your chair should position your thighs horizontal to the floor, with your feet resting flat. If your feet don’t reach the floor, try using a footrest.
- There should be enough lumbar support to keep your back straight, with a slight tilt of approximately 100 degrees.
- Line up your eyes with the upper third of the monitor screen, and about 55 cm to 65 cm (22 to 26 inches) away. If you have a large monitor, you may have to be further away in order to avoid neck strain.
- The best position for your back is with your shoulders in a relaxed position, your arms horizontally in front of you, and the mouse within easy reach.
- Keep your wrists straight and flat, not bent up or down.
- Your keyboard should be fairly flat; if it slants, the lower end should be closer to you.
- Keep your mouse as close to your keyboard as possible.
Tips for Proper Posture
- Stand straight. Get into the habit of checking your posture and correcting it when necessary. Your shoulders should be in line with your ears (not drooped forward or pulled back), your chin should be parallel to the floor, and your stomach should be flat.
- Sit with support. Adjust your work chair so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are bent at a 90° angle. Make sure the lower part of your back is supported by the back of your chair. You may need to use a rolled towel or special lumbar support.
- Move around. Avoid sitting or standing for too long in the same position. Move and stretch at least every 30-45 minutes.
- Be strong. Weak muscles provide poor support for your body. Try to follow an exercise plan that includes movements to strengthen legs, abdominals, and back.
- Develop your lower abs for better posture. You can try this exercise anywhere: Focusing on your lower abdominals, pull your belly button into your spine and imagine pulling it upwards. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat five times.