When you have rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease that causes swollen and painful joints, doing common tasks can feel nearly impossible at times. The right rheumatoid arthritis products can help you deal with challenging activities and help alleviate your pain.
“If inflammation affects joints in the hands and fingers, it can be difficult to perform daily tasks such as putting on clothes or removing rings from fingers,” Naomi Schlesinger, M.D., chief of the Division of Rheumatology at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, tells SELF. “When you live with rheumatoid arthritis, chores like getting dressed, showering, opening doors, cooking, eating, and cleaning can become much more challenging obstacles.”
Figuring out which rheumatoid arthritis products may be helpful can take some trial and error. We asked people with rheumatoid arthritis for the tools they use to get through painful days in the hope that their suggestions will work for you too.
1. Ergonomic pens that are easy to grip when your fingers are swollen
Shelley F., 51, started volunteering with arthritis advocacy group CreakyJoints after her rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis in 2012. She says even jotting down a quick note can be burdensome when it’s “hard to grasp and hold on to things,” including pencils and pens. “Writing legibly is a challenge for me some days when my fingers are swollen and painful,” she tells SELF. Shelley uses the Pen Again pens ($8, Amazon) because they have an ergonomic design and are comfortable to grip. “They are easy to write with,” she says.
2. Compression wraps or sleeves to reduce joint strain during the day
Personal trainer Ashley N., 37, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010, says the condition predominantly affects her hands and wrists. “The pain is always there,” she tells SELF. To ease pressure on her joints while lifting weights or cooking, Ashley uses devices that offer wrist support via compression. “They give me enough relief to be able to complete normal tasks without discomfort,” she tells SELF. The McDavid Wrist Compression Brace ($12, Amazon) is one well-reviewed option.
When Yaideliz A., 24, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2018, she looked for ways to feel more comfortable while typing at work. She found that using the CompressionZ Compression Arm Sleeve ($20, Amazon) helped reduce swelling and inflammation in her arms and wrists so she could work with less pain. “These give me extra support,” she tells SELF.
There’s some evidence that compression gloves may reduce rheumatoid arthritis pain and joint stiffness, according to a 2014 review of studies published in the journal Therapeutic Advances of Musculoskeletal Disease. However, the mechanism for this isn’t clear, and you will likely need to wear compression gear consistently to feel any results, and there’s no evidence that wearing compression gloves or sleeves will improve your overall hand function. If you’re interested in buying compression gear, then you may want to ask your doctor for suggestions about which products might work for you.
3. A comfortable night splint that keeps your joints straight
Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can be worse in the morning because your joints may stiffen up overnight. The discomfort from this can make getting out of bed almost unbearable. Shelley says wearing the 3 Point Products Comforter Splints ($87, Amazon) at night helps make her mornings easier. “Sometimes my fingers curl up when I’m sleeping, then stiffen, so that I need to pry them open when I wake up,” she says. Using the splints keep her fingers straight and prevents this from happening, Shelley explains.
4. An electric jar opener to avoid overworking your wrists
For Ashley, activities that involve twisting motions are especially difficult. To open her favorite jars of sauces or foods, Ashley relies on her electric jar opener. “I’ve had it for 17 years and it still works like a charm,” she says. “You place the jar in the machine, adjust to fit, press the button and it opens the jar for you.” Ashley uses a Black & Decker model that’s no longer made, but this Besmon Electric Jar Opener is readily available ($25, Amazon).
5. Shoes that offer enough support for walking or standing
Shelley says that walking outside is her main form of exercise, but that her foot pain makes that difficult some days. She has tried various types of shoes but says the Vionic Brisk Miles Walking Shoes ($100, Amazon) and Asics Gel-Quickwalk 3 ($57, Amazon) allow her to stay active and stand at work more comfortably. Although there is no single type of shoe that can help everyone’s foot pain, Shelley says these two are good rheumatoid arthritis products because “both have really good arch support, and that helps me take long walks and even hike on a trail where there is no pavement.”
6. Voltaren gel to help with your joint symptoms
Tien S., 51, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2010, says the pain in her wrist, feet, toes, and knees make it difficult to place her feet on the floor or hold a phone. During periods of bad flares, Tien rubs Voltaren gel onto her joints to get some relief. The over-the-counter topical product contains diclofenac sodium, which helps reduce arthritis pain, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. (You may not feel instant relief because Voltaren gel can take up to seven days to provide any effects, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.) This gel is available without a prescription, but if you can, it’s a good idea to talk to your physician before starting new medications. This way you can discuss how the product fits into your treatment plan and if it could interact with any other medications you take. Also, keep in mind that your treatment options may change over time based on new research and newly available therapies. Make sure you have ongoing conversations with your doctor about which treatment options may be best for you.