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14 Everyday Tasks, and What They Feel Like for a Person With Rheumatoid Arthritis

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The average person probably doesn’t think twice about completing routine, daily tasks like getting showered and dressed, driving to work, cooking dinner or taking out the trash. But when you live with a chronic illness or disability, these seemingly “small” chores can become much bigger obstacles made more challenging by symptoms of your condition.

If you live with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), everyday activities may be difficult due to pain, swelling, stiffness and a lack of dexterity and mobility.

RA is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis, affecting approximately 1.5 million Americans. Not all forms of arthritis are considered autoimmune, but RA falls in this category since the disease involves the immune system mistakenly attacking the joints. This leads to inflammation that causes the tissue inside the joints to thicken, resulting in pain and swelling.

Though rheumatoid arthritis often involves joint pain, swelling, stiffness and decreased movement, the effects are not limited to the joints. RA is a systemic disease, meaning it can have an impact on other bodily systems, such as the cardiovascular or respiratory system. It can also affect a person’s mental well-being and ability to do everyday tasks.

Though friends and loved ones may recognize that your symptoms are causing you problems in your day-to-day life, they may not understand the full scope of how RA affects each of your activities. To shed some light on these effects, we asked our Mighty community to share an everyday task that is more difficult because of rheumatoid arthritis, and what it’s like to do this task with RA. If any of the following sound familiar, know you are not alone. Let us know which tasks you would add in the comments below.

Here’s what our community shared with us:

1. Getting Dressed

Getting dressed, very little movement in my arms and shoulders so it gets more difficult each day. Thankfully, my amazing hubby is my full-time carer and helps me with everything.” – Jill C.

Getting dressed and showered can really be a struggle especially on flare days. When my body doesn’t want to cooperate and my hands don’t want to work it’s like why even bother. There are days I’ll just stay in the same clothes for a couple days at a time because it’s difficult to do it on my own. It makes me feel bad to have to ask my husband to help dress me.” – Linsey M.

Getting dressed is a real struggle. I rely heavily on Velcro and elastic waistbands when my hands and feet are particularly swollen and painful.” – Megan D.

If you struggle to get dressed due to RA, check out these tips from our Mighty community:

2. Showering

Showering. Lifting my arms is hard with sore shoulders and my shower actually has a step and when my hips and knees are hurting it’s agony trying to get into the shower.” – Melize M.

Showering, it actually increases my pain when that used to be a peaceful relaxing escape.” – Jennifer A.

Showering. I know the warm water should help but having to move my body to clean everywhere is exhausting. I feel like I walked a mile. I finally had to get a shower chair because I couldn’t stand that long anymore.” – Baylee M.

If showering is tough for you, check out these tips from our Mighty community:

3. Opening Doors

Opening doors and zippers are big ones that are pretty much unavoidable. I’ve cried in front of doors that don’t have [disability] openers and people don’t understand because I’m not in a chair. Even my closest friends always forget that I can’t really grip with my fingers or move my wrist. Not having hand function (I say my right hand is just for decoration because of end-stage damage) is so hard to accommodate…” – Mickey M.

If opening doors is challenging, you may relate to these stories from Mighty contributors:

4. Cooking and Eating

“Showering and getting dressed are the hardest most of the time, but when flaring cooking and eating are the worst because I have to stand to do one and sit to do the other when all I want to do is lie down permanently, but even that is hard. I have had RA since 1996, together with fibromyalgia.” – felicity45

“Cooking used to be my ‘go to’ stress reliever before my injury. Now when I cook/bake it’s as tolerated because I don’t know how long I can do it for. PT has taught me some ways to stand so it’s more tolerable, but the pressure it puts on my back can be excruciating. I tend to sit/stand as needed or do things in short periods with help. I miss the days where I would meal prep for hours. Thankful for the help I have and the 10-15 mins I can tolerate.” – winbel09

If showering is tough for you, check out these tips from our Mighty community:

5. Drying Off

Drying myself.” – Karen K.

If you struggle to dry yourself off after a shower, check out these tips from our Mighty community:

6. Going to the Bathroom

“I have had RA since age 31 and I am 56. I have deformity in my hands and my right wrist is fused at this point with no flex. This is embarrassing but I am going to share because it is a big deal – toileting with my right hand as I am right handed sometimes just does not work. Especially when in a flare-up and with no flex in the wrist. I have had to teach myself to toilet with my left hand. People do not think of these day-to-day tasks and simple personal daily activities ever unless you are plagued with wondering ‘how is this going to work’ when doing something we all do on a daily basis.” – Benhogan007

If you struggle with using the bathroom due to RA, check out how these Mighty contributors cope:

7. Opening Cans and Jars

Opening things! Jars, cans etc. I have a hard time opening anything you have to twist or pop.” – Lexi S.

Lifting/opening items.” – Christina M.

Showering, doing my hair, opening anything, turning things, writing, walking/standing for too long but also sitting for too long so basically existing.” – Kel W.

If you have difficulty opening things, check out these tips from our Mighty community:

8. Clasping and Unclasping Bras

I can no longer wear bras that hook in the back unless I pre-hook them and slip them over my head.” – Jessica I.

If wearing a bra that clasps in the back is difficult or painful, check out our Mighty community’s recommendations:

9. Writing

I have a hard time to even write my own name some days and I feel horrible that I can’t do it.” – Miranda L.S.

Anything involving the use of my hands. I can only write for about 3-5 minutes before my hand cramps up and I need a break. Makes school difficult and people make fun of my handwriting which is terrible due to my hand constantly cramping up and hurting.” – Hunter H.

If writing is difficult for you, check out these stories from our Mighty community: 

10. Putting Socks and Shoes On

Putting socks on and tying shoelaces, this is something I either have to get help with by whoever is with me or on ‘good days’ I can just about manage it myself but it takes a while, putting one sock on can leave me feeling so accomplished because of how strenuous it can be.” – Natalie P.

If RA makes it tough to put on your socks and shoes, you might relate to these stories from our Mighty community:

11. Cleaning

Cooking [and] cleaning, destroys my lower back, knees, neck [and] shoulders. Feels like I’m torturing myself while doing it, takes days to recover from.” – Sarah C.

Vacuuming. Mopping. They hurt so much, totally wipe me out.” – Rachel M.

If RA makes cleaning difficult, check out these tips from our Mighty community:

12. Walking

Walking first thing in the morning. It physically hurts in my ankles and feet. At 36 years old, I walk like I’m 76 when I first get up.” – Stephanie S.D.

If walking is difficult for you, check out these stories from our Mighty community:

13. Fixing Your Hair

“I have trouble putting my hair in a ponytail because my right hand just does not want to work. Simple for many, easy for many. Not so for us with RA. I actually say a little prayer and talk to myself with the words ‘please hand, work today, just work today.’ I keep trying and I will keep praying.” – Benhogan007

Dressing my son. Doing my hair. Writing. All are extremely difficult because my joints swell and are painful and stiff most of the time.” – Elizabeth P.

If fixing your hair is a challenge, check out our Mighty community’s tips:

14. Kitchen Chores

“Scrubbing dishes messes me up pretty bad and I lose the full function of my hands after because of the pain.” – Des S.

Unpacking the dishwasher is excruciating to bend over that long.” – Sam C.

If completing kitchen chores is challenging, check out our Mighty community’s tips:

If you struggle with everyday tasks because of RA, you’re not alone. To read more from our rheumatoid arthritis community, check out the following stories:

Getty Image by Medioimages/Photodisc

Originally published: June 20, 2019
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