Quick Tips: Modifying Your Home and Work Area When You Have Arthritis

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The pain and stiffness from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis may make it hard for you to do daily tasks, like opening doors or using a keyboard. Here are some tips and some tools that can help you at home and at work.

At home

Here are some changes you can make in your home that can help you move more easily and with less pain.

  • Use doorknob covers to make opening doors easier.
  • Replace round doorknobs.

    Get doorknobs with levers so that you don't have to use a whole grip to twist the doorknob open. You can just push down on the handle with your hand or even your elbow. This takes the strain off your wrist and fingers.

  • Use a reacher.

    A reacher lets you pick up things off the floor or grab items that are high up in cabinets or closets.

  • Use padded or large-handled tools.

    These tools make objects such as keys, silverware, kitchen pots and pans, combs, and toothbrushes easier to hold.

  • Use electric tools.

    Tools such as electric can openers, blenders, and power tools make it easier to open cans, mix things, or do home repairs.

  • Use higher chairs or seat cushions and tall stools.

    Cushions and higher chairs help you avoid sitting in chairs that are very low and hard to get in and out of. Use a stool for tasks that you would normally do standing up, such as working in the kitchen or wood shop.

  • Make your bathroom safer and easier to use.
    • Use a raised seat on your toilet to make it easier to sit down and stand up.
    • Put in grab bars to help you get in and out of the shower or tub.
    • Use no-slip tape in the bathtub.

    All of these things can also help prevent falls.

  • Use tools to help you get dressed.

    Buttonhooks, long-handled shoehorns, and sock pullers can make getting dressed easier. And use Velcro instead of small buttons or snaps on your clothes.

You can find some of these devices and tools online, in medical supply stores and catalogs, and in local retail and home improvement stores. An occupational therapist can help you make these and other changes to your home.

If you have health insurance, it may help you pay for some of these changes. If you have trouble affording the changes you need, talk to your doctor. They may be able to refer you to programs that can help.

At work

Here are some changes you can make in your work area that can help you move more easily and with less pain.

  • Use carts or carriers with wheels.

    They can help you move things such as heavy boxes or furniture. If you can't use carts or carriers all the time, learn to lift things safely.

  • Use an adjustable chair.

    It can help support your lower back. You can also adjust the chair's height so your feet rest flat on the floor.

  • Use a computer keyboard tray.

    The tray should be big enough to hold your keyboard and mouse. Be sure the height of the tray can be adjusted to a spot that allows you to type with no pain. There are other types of keyboards, including split or curved keyboards that may work better for you.

  • Use a computer trackball mouse or touch pad.

    It may reduce strain on your hand, wrist, and shoulder better than a standard computer mouse.

  • Adjust your computer monitor to eye level.

    It reduces strain on your neck.

  • Make your desk work for you.

    Arrange your desk and work space so that the things you use the most are easy to reach and you don't have to lean, bend, or twist to get them.

  • Sit in your chair properly.

    Sit up straight, relax your shoulders, keep your feet flat on the ground, and don't lean forward too much. This takes stress off your back.

  • Stretch or get out of your chair.

    Taking breaks can help keep your muscles loose and your joints moving well.

An occupational therapist can help you make these and other changes to your work area.

Related Information


Current as of: July 17, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.