Working with arthritis (top tips and products)

In the UK there are approximately 10 million people living with arthritis. Every day at Posture People, we work with people with varying levels of arthritis. From students to pensioners, arthritis can affect anyone and can cause severe discomfort and pain. Medical News recently reported that links have been proven between arthritis, sleep disturbance and depression.  It’s National Arthritis Week and we thought we’d take a closer look at what can help.

What does arthritis feel like?

Arthritis symptoms:

  • Stiffness and pain in the joints
  • Restricted movement
  • Inflammation or red skin around joints
  • Weakness

If you are experiencing any of these, you should speak to a doctor, about what the best course of action is.

The people we see are computer users, (most commonly with arthritis of the spine, hands, neck and hips) wanting our help to safely use their computers at home. As well as recommending ergonomic equipment, we offer them advice on working with with arthritis, which we’d like to share with you now.

If you suffer from arthritis of the spine:

Support for the lumbar region is important for people who suffer from arthritis of the spine and we recommend to our customers that they invest in a chair that has a wide range of adjustment features and a memory foam base for excellent support.

And even if your chair allows you a wide range of movement, it’s imperative that you get up and move about yourself throughout the day. Make a note on your computer calendar, or use a kitchen timer to set a reminder every 40 minutes to get up for a wander around the room. Or install Workpace, to remind you to take a break when the software determines you need it and to actually show you which stretches you need to do.

If you suffer with arthritis of the hands:

This tends to mostly affect either the fingers or the wrists and it is critical that you don’t put too much strain on the affected joints. Many people believe that tilted keyboards were designed to angle early typists’ wrists to avoid them developing wrist pain but this is a myth. Early typists were actually trained to keep their wrists parallel to the desk, a skill that we have not been passed on to our generation. So a flat keyboard might well be better, or a curved keyboard such as the Microsoft sculpt keyboard to provide gentle support.

Many people use a gel rest, though this actually puts extra strain on the carpal tunnel and can actually exacerbate RSI and arthritis of the wrist. So to keep your wrists straight, and avoid putting undue pressure on them, our advice is always to choose a flat keyboard.

If you have swollen finger joints that are inflamed by clicking a mouse then why not take a free trial of the nib clickless software which automatically performs up to 95% of mouse clicking operations for you? Alternatively, a Rollermouse can help minimise discomfort as it reduces movement through the hand and wrist.

Try an ergonomic mouse that is shaped to fit your hand. Ergonomic mice are usually larger than a normal mouse, this is better for those who suffer from arthritis in the hands.

Using a mouse incorrectly is a big cause of arthritis in the hands and wrists. If your mouse is the wrong size or placed too far from you it can cause strain on the wrist. To find out more about the pain caused by using a mouse check out our other blogpost on mouse wrist pain.

If you suffer from arthritis of the hips:

The range of Axia ergonomic chairs provides fantastic relief for those with arthritis of the hip or for people who have undergone hip replacements. With each one providing constant pelvic support and holding your hips in place.

People with hip problems can find sitting in meetings or driving problematic, in which case a portable support can help.

Again, we recommend that you set yourself reminders to get up and move about and if you are often sat in meetings, the Back Friend can help, specially contoured to give the correct support to both the lumbar and thoracic regions of the spine.

If you suffer from arthritis of the neck:

It’s really important that your monitor is at the right height. Reassess how you are sitting to make sure it’s in line with our simple guide on how to adjust your chair.

If you’re a laptop user, you should be using a laptop stand along with a separate keyboard and mouse and follow our handy guide to using a laptop safely.

Use a chair with a headrest, this will allow you to take breaks whilst you are working and be able to relax your neckmuscles. Chairs such as the RH 400, Flo or Xenium Basic Solid back chair, are good options. All the chair below have optional headrests.

Set up your workstation correctly

Once you have all your ergonomic equipment, it’s time to assess your workstation and how you sit.

Follow through our checklist on how to set up your workstation correctly.

  • Sit at the right height: When your shoulders are relaxed, bend your arms at the elbow so that your forearms are in line with the desk
  • Sit back in the chair: When you sit down, make sure your backside is as far back in the chair as possible.
  • Check the depth of the seat: When you’re sitting as far back as possible there should be a 2-3 finger gap between the back of the knee and the seat of the chair. Use the seat slide to alter if necessary.
  • Check whether you need a footrest: When you are sitting at the right height, if your feet are not solidly flat on the floor then you will need a footrest
  • Check the monitor height: Your eyebrows should be in line with the top of your screen.
  • Check the distance of the monitor: When sitting correctly in the chair, hold your arms out in front of you. Your arms should be able to touch your screen.
  • Keep your keyboard and mouse close: Don’t stretch for your keyboard or mouse. Elbows should stay in-line with your sides.

For more guidance on setting up your workstation, have a look at our YouTube video where Jo, our expert workstation assessor demonstrates how to set up your workstation in under 60 seconds.

Check out the NHS website for more guidance and help on living and working with arthritis.

Jo Blood has been working in the ergonomic office furniture industry for the last 20 years. An expert in helping people set up their workstations correctly, she has appeared on the BBC as a sitting expert, and been featured in many publications over the years, including The Telegraph, The Guardian and the Daily Mail. She also provides advice to many trade publications.

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