The saying goes “work smarter, not harder.” These are words to live by when protecting the fragile joints of your wrists and hands, especially if you have arthritis. There are many techniques you can learn to get through your day without injuring yourself further.
Remember to be proactive. Balance work and rest, making sure you rest before you’re tired and before pain starts. Prioritize what’s important for the day, setting realistic goals and completing more difficult activities when you feel strongest. For some the morning is best, for others the afternoon is better when they’ve loosened up.
When you’re in the middle of your task, try to maintain proper posture, use both hands when possible and avoid a tight grip, using the palms of your hands for lifting and pushing instead.
When working in the kitchen there are many cooking tips and gadgets to make it easier on your hands. Setting a bowl on a sponge or washcloth can prevent bowls from turning, so you don’t have to hold them. Large culinary scissors can be used to open plastic bags and cut up vegetables. Use tongs instead of forks to turn or lift foods, and if you have a spiked cutting board, your steak will stay put. Electric can openers and jar openers do most of the work for you. Keep knives sharp so you can use your other hand to provide pressure on top of the knife to cut items. Carry groceries in your arms, close to your body. By doing this, bag handles won’t cut into your hands and fingers, and your back will thank you, too.
There are many things we do every day not realizing how much strain we are putting on our fingers. When you’re
done with the dishes, press water out of sponges with your palm, not by squeezing. Drip dry your hands or pat them, instead of wringing them in a towel. Slip foam over a pencil or use the eraser end to dial the phone, holding the pencil like an ice pick. When inserting tacks don’t put all that pressure on your thumb; use a small hammer. Place extensions or grippers on door knobs or water faucets. Many of these items can be found at your local hardware or dollar store.
Hopefully these aforementioned tricks will help. Just remember, that if your hands are already fragile or injured, these are good guidelines to follow. If preserving hand strength is your goal, talk to your Pemi-Baker Physical or Occupational therapist for strengthening exercises.
~by Pam Hixon, OT