Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Tools and Rules of Beating Back Arthritis ; A Few Daily Changes Help Sufferers Get More Done with Less Discomfort

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Tools and Rules of Beating Back Arthritis ; A Few Daily Changes Help Sufferers Get More Done with Less Discomfort

Article excerpt

The trick is to modify activities in ways that ease pain and stiffness, experts say.

Arthritis is the leading cause of disability in the United States. But with a few simple adjustments, life can be easier and less painful for the millions of people who now permit this common condition to limit what they are able to do and enjoy.

The changes can be as simple as playing with grandchildren on the couch or at a table, instead of on the floor, said one knowledgeable grandfather, Dr. Kenneth Brandt, who is also an orthopedic surgeon and clinical professor of medicine at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City.

The trick is to decide what activities are important to you and then modify them in ways that ease symptoms like pain, stiffness and fatigue. Arthritis may be a mechanical disability, but it need not turn people into couch potatoes.

"There's a whole body to pay attention to," Dr. Brandt said in an interview. "You shouldn't neglect everything else that's important to you and to your general health, including physical activity."

Even with relatively advanced arthritis, it is important to maintain an exercise regimen, with modifications as needed to minimize overuse of damaged joints.

"You should exercise affected joints," Dr. Brandt said. "Muscles around the joints can atrophy -- use them or lose them -- and result in even more pain and stiffness." He suggested consulting a physical therapist or exercise physiologist to help design "an exercise program that permits loading joints appropriately."

If you enjoy cooking -- or even if you don't -- you have to cook for yourself or your family. In an article called "Cooking With Ease" in the magazine Arthritis Self-Management, Nancy Callinan, an occupational therapist in Minnesota, described adaptations readily available to ordinary and gourmet cooks with troubled joints.

For starters, do not struggle to open a jar or can. And there is no need to exhaust yourself standing up for long periods to prepare food. There are tools and stools that can make the tasks so much easier.

Sam Farber, a retired entrepreneur, invented the widely imitated OXO Good Grips kitchen tools in response to his wife Betsey's mild arthritis. I own at least a dozen that have greatly eased my hours in the kitchen. Whether for opening wine bottles or slicing bread, Dr. Brandt recommends a "judicious investment" in tools designed to make culinary tasks easier.

In her article, Ms. Callinan also wondered why anyone with arthritis would spend hours washing and cutting up vegetables, cheese, meat, poultry or even garlic when supermarkets carry food that is already washed, sliced, diced, shredded or chopped. If you must do it yourself, she advised, invest in a mandolin, food processor or tabletop mixer.

Whether in the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom or laundry room, frequently used items can be made more easily accessible, minimizing the amount of bending and reaching you must do. …

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