Working with Rheumatoid arthritis

Tips For On the Job

Getting to Work+

Commuting in a car or on public transport can be a challenge when you have RA. You may have to sit or stand for long periods of time, and not be able to move about when you need to. This can cause extra pain or stiffness, and be exhausting.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Choosing a car. Adjustable steering wheels, power brakes, lightweight doors and push-button controls can help make driving more comfortable.
  • Use a key turner. A key turner is a key with a thick-grip handle. This helps you turn the key more easily. Some cars have an automatic ignition that you can start with the push of a button.
  • Keep things within reach. Keep a long-handled reacher (a tool with a long handle and gripping mechanism) in your car. This can help you reach buttons and other items safely and easily.
  • Getting about. Ask your doctor or physiotherapist if there is an easier way you can get in and out of the car. Raising the height of your seat can help.
  • Dress comfortably. You have less control over the temperature if you use public transport. Keep extra layers of clothes handy. If your commute involves walking, be sure to wear comfortable shoes.

Keep Moving+

Most jobs mean that you’re likely to use a lot of repetitive movements – such as typing on a keyboard, or using tools. To help keep pain and stiffness down, try some of these:

  • Move around and stretch every 20 to 30 minutes. A walk around the office or a quick stretch at your desk can give your joints and muscles a break, and can help boost your energy.
  • Wear a pedometer. Keeping track of how many steps you take each day gives you an idea of how active you are. It might even help motivate you to exercise more regularly. Exercise helps keep your muscles and joints strong.
  • Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist about other ways you can keep your joints healthy and protected on the job.

Your Environment+

Your work environment should be suited to your needs. Many employers will hire consultants to assess your work environment for you, to make sure it is a good fit. For starters:

  • Look at your workstation. Sitting at a desk, table or other work station for long periods of time can be stressful on joints. Write a list of what is not working well for you.
  • Adjust your chair. Your feet should be flat on the floor, or on a footrest, with your thighs parallel to the floor. Your lower back should be supported and your forearms should rest at a right angle to your body.
  • Look straight ahead. Adjust the top of your computer screen so that it is at eye level.
  • Special tools can help reduce joint pain and stiffness. Pen and pencil grips, wrist rests, and RA-friendly computer mice and keyboards are all available from stationary stores.
  • Ask for an assessment. If you're in doubt about how well your workspace suits you, ask your employer, human resources or an occupational therapist to assess your workplace. Your employer is required by law to make sure it suits your needs.

Looking After Your Workspace+

Like your home, your workspace should be arranged for comfort, safety and accessibility. Think about your workspace and your habits. Are there some things you can do to make things easier on yourself? Try these tips:

  • Reduce clutter. Keep your work surfaces and storage space clear and organised. This will help keep things accessible.
  • Organise your workspace. Keep items you use often within easy reach. Adjust your chair so that you are comfortable.
  • Sitting or standing. If your job requires you to stand for long periods of time, keep a small stool handy so you can sit for short breaks.

Look After Your Feet+

Work can be tiring on your feet, especially if you stand for long periods. Consider the following when selecting footwear:

  • Buy shoes or boots that support your feet. These shoes can also improve your posture and reduce strain on feet, legs and lower back. Go to a specialist shoe store and ask for a fitting.
  • Keep a spare pair handy. Keep a spare pair of shoes at work or in your car. Changing shoes during the day can help the reduce the pressure on feet.
  • Use padded insoles or inserts. These can help cushion your feet and reduce pain. You can buy these in the pharmacy or at the supermarket.
  • Get professional advice. If your feet are really sore and it is affordable for you, you could visit a podiatrist and get professionally fitted for shoes and insoles.

Managing Stress+

Demands, budgets, deadlines - just simply getting the job done - can create stress at work. Worrying about the impact your RA may have on your work also adds to the stress. Consider these tips for managing stress:

  • Know your triggers. The first step in managing stress is to identify your ‘triggers’. Triggers are those things that commonly cause you stress. Once you know your triggers, sit down and work out what you can change and what you can’t. If you can change something, give it a go! If you can’t, let it go.
  • Prioritise. Make lists and prioritise your tasks. Breaking down your tasks can help you tackle them more effectively. When you complete a task, cross it off your list. Seeing how much you've accomplished can be a good motivator and help keep you focused.
  • Cut back on caffeine. Coffee, tea and some soft drinks may give you a quick boost, but too much caffeine can contribute to dehydration, muscle tension, and anxiety. These can make RA flare-ups worse.
  • Take a mental break. Taking a quick mental break can help you refresh. Do a stretch, a quick breathing exercise, or eat a healthy snack to help clear your mind.
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