More than 10 million people in the UK suffer with arthritis. It is one of the most common conditions affecting joints in the human body. It causes pain, swelling, stiffness and inflammation. Certain mobility aids can be useful tools when living with the condition.
Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
There are two types of the disease: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The former is by far the most common and usually develops in people over the age of 40. There is a strong genetic link and it is much more common in women than men.
Often linked to other conditions which impact the joints, it mostly attacks the hands, knees, hips and spine.
Osteoarthritis occurs when the layer of smooth cartilage in the joint wears thin and its surface becomes rough. This leads to pain and stiffness, which in turn increases the stress on surrounding muscles and tendons. After a while, small, painful spurs of bone can develop.
The wearing down of cartilage tissue can in severe cases leave the bones completely unprotected. Bone rubbing on bone as the joint moves causes great pain to the patient and reduces their mobility.
Rheumatoid arthritis is again more common in women than men and affects over 400,000 people in the UK. Unlike osteoarthritis, it results when the body’s own immune system affects bone joints. This leads to pain and inflamed areas.
There are a wide range of disability aids for arthritis suffers available.
Impact on Lifestyle
Often, arthritis is in more than one part of the body at the same time. Its effect on the hands can be life changing for some people. Gripping and manipulating objects becomes painful. Using a pen, computer keyboard or other tasks which need manual dexterity can become hard. Some use tools made to ease the pain.
Disability aids are available which subtly alter the stresses placed on the joints in the fingers. For example, fitting built-up handles to pens, pencils, knives and forks can make them easier and less painful to use.
Depending on the degree to which the arthritis causes pain, sufferers are generally encouraged to exercise. Regular exercise improves the strength of muscles and tendons around the affected joints. It may reduce stiffness and increase the mobility their joints.
Eating healthily and maintaining a good body weight is also beneficial. Gaining weight through lack of exercise puts more stress on the joints and could make the condition worse.
Steps to Take
Doctors recommended that people with arthritis take steps to reduce the chance of making the condition worse. They should also avoid heavy lifting and other possible day-to-day task which might put stress on the joints.
Suggestions also include trying to avoid putting too much stress or weight through smaller joints. Using your shoulders to bear weight with a rucksack rather than using shopping bags, spreads the weight evenly through the body.
If you need to use plastic bags, small disability aids which prevent them digging into your fingers are widely available. The goal is to prevent the need to grip tightly with the hands and fingers.
Padded grips or using other means to increase the width of handles can also help.
If arthritis is effecting many major joints in the body, stretching upwards or reaching down can become difficult and painful. There are many long handled mobility aids which are useful for people in this situation. Reachers which jaws on the far end are great for bringing objects back within reach or from the floor.
Long handled washing aids make life easier in the bathroom. They reduce the range of motion to reach difficult areas of the body. Around the home, fitting handrails can offer useful support. Fitting levers to taps make them easier to turn on or off.
Using Electrical goods like extra small kettles or electric tin openers can also make a difference. Special bottle or jar opener are available which again reduce the amount of hand dexterity required.