Individuals struggling with osteoarthritis of the 1st CMC joint usually have difficulty with daily activities and it can become very frustrating. Everyday tasks such as cutting food, opening containers, and donning a button up shirt can become painful and slow. The largest contributor to the overall function of our hand is the thumb. If the goal of the client is to become more independent during their tasks, we need to address their pain, and we need a broad variety of options to do so.
There are a variety of ways to help treat and manage osteoarthritis and one of the more effective strategies, as therapists, is the use of adaptive equipment. Button hooks, built up handles on utensils, and jar openers are a few of the common equipment options you will find in our clinic. Although, these are the common options, patients will do their own searches on the internet and find other equipment as well. Below you will find a list of some of our favorite adaptive equipment and a few tips on how and why to use each one.
Our 6 Favorite:
1· Built up handles on a silverware to complete eating activities without pain. The built up handles on the silverware can be used to decrease the amount of load placed on the joints of the thumb. They can also use built up handles with the foam by cutting the foam lengthwise and opening them up to build up the grip for larger objects such as a golf club handle, the handle to a pot or pan, or a wire whisk.
2· A rocker knife to increase independence while decreasing painful forces when cutting food. The use of a rocker knife will change the grip used when cutting food. Rather than a diagonal knife grasp that puts force through the radial side of the hand and 1st metacarpal, the rocker knife loads the whole hand which distributes the force over a larger surface area.
3· Dycem sheets to wrap around container lids or other items to help with grip strength. The dycem creates a surface that is easier for others to grip, as well as the dycem gripping to the object or lid to a jar.
4· A button hook to help with buttons in order to dress independently without pain. A button hook will take the pressure off of the fingers and thumb when pushing the button through the hole on a shirt or pants. With the button hook, the wire end will slide through the buttonhole and loop around the button and pull it through the hole, rather than pinching and pushing with the person’s fingers to get button up the shirt or pants.
5· An adaptive mouse, for those individuals at work who use a computer most of the day, to decrease the amount of tension placed on the wrist, thumb, or other parts of the hand. The adaptive mouse places the wrist and hand in a mechanically efficient position when completing work tasks on a computer.
6· An adaptive jar/can/bottle opener for those who have difficulty with opening a jar, can, or a water bottle. This tool will allow the individual a variety of ways for the individual to remove a lid. Whether that be a water bottle, can of soda, or a jar. This object can be useful in many ways and can provide the individual many ways to efficiently and effectively remove a lid with little to no pain.
The focus of the adaptive equipment is to make the task less painful and more mechanically efficient in order to decrease a person’s overall pain and increase the independent participation in functional daily activities. This equipment can work for a variety of people in a variety of ways. It is important to take an occupational profile for our clients and gauge which items can be most helpful.
What are some of your favorite pieces of equipment to ease the pain of arthritis?
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