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8 Tools I Should Have Started Using as Soon as I Was Diagnosed With Rheumatoid Arthritis

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When I mention in passing I’m type A, my brother usually snorts, in not only agreement but as if to indicate there is an extreme understatement in that. I may have a slight problem with wanting to control every aspect of my life, and as such my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) meant I was quick to refuse tools and resources even if they were promising to decrease some of the growing burden.

When the disease ramped up, I was left no choice but to turn the page and try one some assistance for size. These are the top resources I should have given in and used as soon as I was diagnosed with RA. They have saved me agony and stress; I only wish I had been open to this help from the beginning.

1. Delivery grocery service — I’ve actually penned a pseudo-love letter to Amazon Fresh for having rescued me from shopping in store. I have all of my groceries delivered prior to 7 a.m. as a doorstep drop off so no more lengthy trips to the market with my three-year-old in tow and coming back so exhausted I need to sleep for four hours. This for me is an absolute requirement.

2. Compression gear — Anything that helps support and hold back some of the swelling in my arms, knees, ankles — bring it on.

3. Voice to text services (phone, email, you name it) – Whether it’s texting or computer work, the reliance on fine motor skills can render me nearly paralyzed in the hands and arms. I’m still new to this, but have realized the strength of voice-to-text services allows me to remain in contact and on top of my responsibilities with relative ease and speed.

4. Uber – Any driving service would really work here, including friends or family who may be able to assist when it hurts to sit up. When I am driving in the midst of a flare on my own, I turn the air conditioning on high and stick my fingers into the vents (one hand at a time, of course). The flush of cold air helps ease the pain.

5. Bluetooth headsets — Our modern lives are so connected to our phones. Combine this with a job like mine (largely reliant on dialogue) and you have a perfect recipe for extreme pain in the shoulders, neck, back. Add RA to the mix and you may never want to answer the phone. The headset allows me to sit through conference calls or even just talk to my sister on a Saturday morning when I’m not sure I can hold the phone at all.

6. Pain relief ointment — When the pain is so numbing I can’t think and I’ve already taken my pain medicine, the only thing left to do is take a quick roll in Tiger Balm to try and numb the senses topically. This may actually be mistaken for my perfume by my inner circle.

backpack with other pain management supplies
Katy’s RA tools.

7. The pool — Why did I fight getting back in the pool for so long? One of the most important things we can all do is stay active. With any chronic illness this can become a major challenge. The pool helps me solve a number of challenges from RA. Less pressure on the body and something to cool down the heat in my body. Activity without adding to the problem. Win, win, win.

8. Podcasts — Podcasts for me have been a stand-in where books are concerned. A voracious reader, I find as my disease progresses, I can no longer pinch the flaps of the book when I’m reading so paperbacks are out. The e-reader worked for a while (and does on better days) but really any repetitive motion (read: swiping right) is a no-go when my hands are burning and/or numb. Additionally, as my illness ramps up to a fevered state, the podcast will keep my mind active while I am tethered to my bed on those really bad days.

I’d like to give notable mention to a backpack. While not the most exquisite fashion statement, I’ve had to trade in my purse for something that doesn’t annihilate my shoulders and leave me unbalanced at the end of the day. Plus, who doesn’t want to feel a bit younger — the backpack is reminiscent of days spent in elementary and high school and for sure we can all use a bit of nostalgia.

Editor’s note: Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.

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Originally published: June 6, 2016
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