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15 Life Hacks to Make Arthritis Less Painful

Don't let pain keep you from everyday activities.

iStock/Anne Clark

Use your upper arm to open jars

Arthritis in the hands can make opening tight jar lids a painful process. To put less strain on your hand, set the jar on a cloth, then place your hand on the jar, leaning in to it with your body weight. Now use your shoulder, rather than your fingers and wrist, to twist the lid open. Find out what pain doctors do to avoid arthritis.

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Get a better grip

Alternatively, use rubber bands to open jars. Wrapping a thick rubber band around the lid give you a solid grip on wide containers, while thinner bands can help with bottles as small as nail polish. You could also use a dryer sheet or damp washcloth to create more traction. Don’t miss these other arthritis home remedies that doctors recommend.

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Make it electric

The kitchen is a hub of repeated motions like mixing, chopping, and twisting that make your joints ache. Use blenders and food processors to whisk, mince, and shred instead of doing it by hand. Add an electric jar opener to your kitchen tool collection so you don’t have to put energy into twisting and pushing. Avoid eating these foods that could make arthritis worse.

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Find easy-to-use tools

Automatic toilet bowl cleaners and spray-on mildew remover will cut down on the elbow grease you’d normally put into scrubbing your bathroom. When you’re cooking, large-handled kitchen tools will make food prep easier.

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Fill one cup at a time

Lugging heavy pots of water can be tough on your joints. Lighten things up by setting the pot on the stove while empty, then adding the water cup by cup. If your sink is far from the stove, set the pot of water on a bar cart or another rolling stand, and let the wheels help you slide it to the stove. Check out how water therapy can help treat rheumatoid arthritis.

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Do less reaching

Keep items you use often within easy reach so you don’t need to bend and stretch to get your hands on what you need. Also consider stocking up on supplies that you use in different rooms so you can keep one set in each spot. For instance, keeping cleaning supplies in both the kitchen and the bathroom will make it easy to grab those cleaners when you need them. (Related: Here’s how to tell if your back pain is actually arthritis.)

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Keep up with dental hygiene

Even brushing your teeth can be painful if you have arthritis in your hands because the handle is so small. To give your fingers a larger area to wrap around, cut a slit in a tennis ball, and slide your toothbrush in, using the ball as an extension. Don’t miss these other mistakes you make when brushing your teeth.

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Be a smart shopper

Opt for paper bags over plastic so you can clutch heavy grocery bags with your arms instead of straining your hands. If you do need plastic, loop the armholes through your forearms—just don’t let them slide into your elbows, which aren’t as good at supporting weight.

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Make stairs less painful

The right (literal) steps will make staircases less painful. Step first with your stronger leg when you’re climbing up a flight of stairs, and lead with your weaker one when heading down to make knees and hips feel better. Learn about other effective knee pain treatments for achy joints.

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Snip into condiments

Tearing into those tiny ketchup packets can strain your hands when you’re eating on the go. Stash a pair of scissors in your bag (even better if you have one with a large handle designed for people with arthritis) to snip through with ease. Just avoid these condiments that are secret health bombs.

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Do less cooking

Cut down on the number of joint-hurting days you spend cooking by making big batches every time you make a meal. Freeze the leftovers so you have a dinner on hand whenever your joints are feeling achier than usual. Tossing ingredients in a slow cooker or using a microwave oven can also help cut down on the time you spent bent over the stove.

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Zip it up

Tiny zippers can be tough to manage. Give your fingers more to hold on to by slipping a key ring or piece of ribbon through the zipper pull. Stuck with a sticky zipper? Here are more ways to fix common wardrobe malfunctions.

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Keep your hands off

When opening a heavy door, try not to add unnecessary strain on pained finger and wrist joints. Push the door with your shoulder or the side of your arms instead. (Related: Should you try acupuncture to ease arthritis?)

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Break up activity

Exercise can make joint pain less intense, but overworking inflamed joints can make the pain even worse. Aim to get 30 minutes of light exercise three times a week, but break it into three 10-minute spurts if you’re getting stiff. Don’t miss these home remedies for back pain.

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Move around

Staying in one position for too long can make joints stiffer. When working at a desk or watching TV, make sure to get up every 15 minutes to stretch and get your body moving. Adjusting your position frequently can keep you from getting achy too. Here’s how to help your body recover from a day of sitting.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest