Working with Rheumatoid arthritis

Tips For On the Go

On the Go+

Life can get hectic these days - commuting to work, driving the kids around, running errands and just being where you need to be. This can be difficult when you’re living with arthritis. Have a read of the tips below to help you get from A to B with more comfort and ease.


Driving is usually necessary for day-to-day tasks such going to the doctor, running errands, or grocery shopping. Here are some tips to make driving a little easier:

  • Mobility Stickers. If you haven’t already got one, ask your doctor about getting a mobility sticker for your car. This will allow you to use disabled parking bays around town.
  • Adjust your seat. Ensure your seat is in a position that is comfortable for your back, neck and joints. Use cushions or neck pillows to provide support.
  • Make a handle for your seat belt. Reaching your seat belt can be made easier by making a handle that sticks out of the shoulder strap. You can make a handle out of rope, duct tape or spare fabric. Ask someone to help if making things is difficult for you.
  • Use a chunky keyring. This can help you grip your keychain when taking your keys out of your bag. You can also buy rubber grippers to put around the top of your keys to make them easier to grasp and turn.
  • Choosing a car. If you are buying a new car, have a think about how well the car is going to suit you over time. Are the seats adjustable? Can you easily reach the gearstick and other controls? Is it difficult to enter and exit the car? Plan for the car to suit you on your worst days, not your best days.

Getting Stuff Done!+

Everybody has ‘stuff’ they have to do day-to-day, whether they have arthritis or not. Unfortunately arthritis can make these things a little more challenging. Try these tips to help you:

  • Make a list of tasks and break them up to complete over a couple of days. Pace yourself depending on how much energy you have and how you are feeling. Overdoing it can cause unnecessary stress and flare-ups.
  • Electric scooters are available in some stores. Phone your store before you go, to save yourself the leg work.
  • Use a trolley or cart to carry your groceries and belongings. Remember that shopping can get heavy, so make it easy for yourself.
  • Use bags or wallets with magnetic clasps rather than zips or buttons. Shopkeepers will often help you if you’re having trouble – don’t be too shy to ask.

Public Transport+

Using the bus or train can seem daunting when you have arthritis, but there are measures you can take to get around more smoothly:

  • Plan your route in advance. It can help to know whether you have to change buses or trains, and how long your journey is going to take in advance, so that you can feel prepared before you leave the house.
  • If possible, use a fare-card instead of cash to pay for your ticket. These can be more convenient and easier to use than change or tokens.
  • Sit in seats close to the exit: this can make it easier to get off the train or bus when you get to your stop.
  • Sit in aisle seats: they are generally further from air conditioning vents and are less cold.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for a seat. People may be happy to accommodate you if the bus is full and no seats are available.

Staying Comfortable+

Be sure that you're not putting too much stress on yourself when you're out and about. The following tips can help:

  • Be prepared for temperature changes – outside and inside. Climates can change, and stores or workplaces can have air conditioning that is too cold. Keep warm clothes handy in your car or bag; or store them at your workplace.
  • Invest in comfortable shoes. Many brands specialise in making footwear comfortable. Pop into their store and try a few pairs on. Sometimes changing shoes midway through the day can help take pressure off your feet.
  • Pack light. Remember that if you leave the house with a lot of things, you may have to carry them all day. Use a bag on wheels, or try to leave some space if you think you’ll be buying things to bring home.

Taking Time to Rest+

Taking time to rest during the day can help you be more productive. Here are some ways you can pace yourself so that you are making the most of your energy:

  • Know your limits. Putting too much stress on your body can make your arthritis feel worse. Get to know how your body feels when it wants you to slow down and rest.
  • Sit down and rest. Give your body time to rest when you need it. Sitting down for a cup of tea, reading a magazine, or gently dozing on the couch are all good ways to re-energise. If you are at work, talk to your boss about ways you can take some time out when you need to.
  • Share how you feel. The people around you might not realize that you need to rest. A simple phrase such as “I think my body needs a rest, I’m just going to sit for half an hour” might be enough to let them know where you’re at.
  • If you can't finish everything in one day, don't worry. These days people can put a lot of pressure on themselves to finish a lot in one day. Show yourself some compassion. Don’t beat yourself up if your arthritis prevents you from finishing your to-do list. You can always go back to it when you are feeling better.

Do-It-Yourself Travel Aids+

When you're out and about, or travelling away from home, your arthritis can make it harder to do even the simplest things. With some kiwi ingenuity and a bit of ‘number eight wire’ you can adapt when you are away from home:

  • Make your own soft surfaces. Use a piece of soft cloth or thick foam to wrap around handles or hard to grip objects. Pile towels on the floor to cushion your feet. If you can, take some non-slip matting for baths and showers.
  • Improvise a cushion. Clothing, blankets, towels, or even some bags may double as a cushion if you need one when you’re away from home.
  • Call your hotel in advance. You can ask for an ‘accessible’ room that has stability rails in the bathroom, or is located on the ground floor. You can also ask if they have spare pillows or blankets to make things more comfortable.
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