As a child, I remember my grandmother struggling with everyday tasks like
opening a jar or turning a key, and I wondered what I could do to help.
There have been times when individuals at the grocery store have asked
me to help them carry bags, or pick up change from the counter, because
it was too difficult for them. Such simple tasks can be painful and frustrating
for people with arthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the joints between your bones experience "wear
and tear." According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,
osteoarthritis affects more than 27 million Americans, most commonly in the hands, knees and hips. Symptoms of osteoarthritis
can develop gradually, and may include stiffness, pain, joint swelling,
aching and soreness. Among the treatment options to help relieve the symptoms
of osteoarthritis, occupational therapy offers a useful, informative and
non-invasive starting point.
How can occupational therapy (OT) help?
Studies show that physical activity benefits overall joint health, but
if movement is painful it can be difficult to know how to proceed. An
occupational therapist is specially trained to help tailor specific activities
based on your needs. In addition to exercises, OTs offer guidance about
special tools, splints, exercises for reducing swelling and ways to protect joints.
If you are interested in seeing an occupational therapist, ask your physician
for a prescription or referral and give us a call! Valley Health offers
outpatient occupational therapy clinics throughout the region. For more
Experiencing pain and discomfort? Try these suggestions:
- Wrap Ace bandages around kitchen and gardening utensils for a wider, softer grip.
- Keep direct pressure off your joints. Investing in shoe inserts, for example,
can make a big difference.
- Try applying heat and cold. Determine which keeps pain and stiffness at
- Prioritize your work. Don’t feel you need to complete everything
at once. (Only do one load of laundry at a time, for example.)
- Try to avoid heavy lifting. If your hand and wrist tire easily carrying
a purse or briefcase, try a cross-body style or a knapsack.
- If your arm is painful and swollen, raise and rest it on a couple of pillows
to improve blood flow.
If you don’t have arthritis but found this post informative, be sure
to share with others who might benefit from these tips!
This post was contributed by Valley Health Occupational Therapist Eva Buras