Assistive devices including mobility aids and ergonomic tools can make everyday life easier for people with osteoarthritis.
For people suffering from, knee, hip, or hand osteoarthritis (OA), it may become increasingly difficult to carry out everyday tasks and activities. This difficulty can negatively impact a person’s quality of life. Luckily, a variety of mobility aids, orthopaedic aids, and ergonomic tools exist to make everyday life easier. An occupational therapist or a physiotherapist can recommend aids and/or ergonomic tools and explain how to use them correctly.
In Sweden, certain mobility aids are free of charge and can be borrowed from the hospital (this differs from country to country). However, it is up to a doctor, occupational therapist, or physiotherapist to assess whether a patient needs to borrow mobility equipment. If you aren’t able to borrow any equipment, several shops sell a large selection of assistive devices, including pharmacies and online mobility aid shops.
Assistive devices for people with knee and hip OA
Some people with hip or knee OA can at times find it painful to walk. Using a cane or a crutch to unload body weight can relieve such pain and improve balance. A cane or a crutch should be held in the hand on the opposite side of the body that needs support; for example, if you suffer from OA in your right knee, you should hold the cane or the crutch in your left hand. Many canes and crutches are today foldable and can easily be packed into a bag. For those with knee or hip OA who also suffer from hand OA, there are special canes ergonomically designed for the hands. If you have severely impaired mobility, you may need to consider using a walker.
For people with hip OA, bending over may really hurt, making it very difficult to for example put on socks and shoes. To avoid bending, you can buy extra-long shoehorns or sock aids that facilitate putting your shoes and socks on. You can even find extra-long nail clippers in specific aid shops. So-called grabbers or reachers to pick things up are also very smart tools that can be used to avoid bending over.
For people with severe knee or hip OA who find it nearly impossible to walk or bend over without assistance, handles and raised toilet seats can be installed in the bathroom.
Ergonomic tools for hand OA
OA of the fingers, the base of the thumb, or wrist often impacts hand function. Grip strength is often weakened and doing things such as opening a jar or squeezing toothpaste from the toothpaste tube can become difficult, if not impossible. People with OA of the wrist may find it hard to use a knife to cut bread or chop vegetables as this movement requires certain wrist strength. However, if you do suffer from hand weakness, a large variety of ergonomic tools can be bought, including ergonomically designed cheese graters, bread knives, cutlery, can openers, milk package openers, and scissors.
Other assistive devices
An orthosis is an orthopaedic appliance used to provide support to a weak joint and relieve pain. Orthotics can either be hard or soft, and there are many different types of orthotics, depending on which part of the body needs support. Hard orthotics tend to be custom made and need to be ordered, whilst soft orthoses can be bought in mobility aid shops or pharmacies.
If you suffer from OA of the big toe, a rocker sole in your shoes can provide good support. If OA is present in other parts of the foot, there are both shock-absorbing insoles and bandages that can help relieve pressure and add stability to the foot.
Mobility aids should be adjusted with the help of an occupational therapist or a physiotherapist to ensure proper use.