Updated 18 January 2017

Arthritis... How to choose the right furniture

Do you have arthritis? Then you may have stiff, painful joints and significant mobility and functioning issues. Make your life easier by choosing furniture that’s right for you.

While the outside world is definitely not always equipped with your needs in mind, you can make absolutely sure that the furniture in your home is there for your comfort.

Two of the rooms you’re likely to spend a lot of time in are the sitting room and bedroom.

Choice of furniture is extremely important

Getting up out of the bed and out of chairs can be problematic if you have joint problems such as arthritis. Your choice of furniture is also extremely important if you have to accommodate walking aids.

Not quite sure where to start? Here are some ideas from Arthritis Research UK and the University of Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Department:

- Choose firm chairs that are not low, so that it’s easier for you to sit down and to get up out of them. Your spine needs support, so a chair with a sturdy backrest is essential. Plush, soft sofas are tempting, but could be problematic to use if you have joint pain problems. When sitting upright, your feet should rest on the floor. If you don’t have a choice when it comes to the furniture, consider adding a sturdy cushion to a chair or sofa. This will add both height and stability.

Read: What is rheumatoid arthritis?

- When choosing a work chair, get one that’s adjustable so you can position the chair for different work surfaces. When sitting at a desk or table, your shoulders should be relaxed, and your wrists straight.

- When choosing furniture of any kind, avoid shiny surfaces that need to be polished.

- When reading, even in a living-room chair, use a bookstand at eye level so that you don’t strain your neck by looking down all the time.

Enough space is essential

- It’s essential to have enough space to move between furniture, especially if you’re using walking aids or a wheelchair. Narrow doorways can also be problematic. When buying or renting a new home, these considerations have to be kept in mind.

- Dining chairs can sometimes be low. Mid-height barstools may be more practical for everyday use.

- When choosing curtains or blinds, install a pull wand or drapery baton, as they’re also known as, so that you don’t have to stretch up to open and close them. Choose lightweight fabrics, as opening and closing heavy curtains can be a strain.

Read: What is osteoarthritis?

- Loose carpets can be dangerous as they could trip you up. Non-slip tiles or wall-to-wall carpeting is preferable. If you have loose carpets, make sure the edges are securely hidden under big pieces of furniture so that they don’t become an obstacle to you. Wet tiles are always a slip risk, so any spillages need to be mopped up immediately anywhere in the house.

- Make sure your mattress is sturdy, high and provides you with good support at night. This is definitely something worth spending money on; especially if you consider that you spend at least a third of your life in bed.

Get up in the mornings in stages

- A high chair placed next to the bed could help you to get up in the mornings in stages, so to speak.

- Make sure that door and cupboard handles are of the lever-type, rather than knobs that need to be turned.

Read: Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

- Light switches shouldn’t be too high up and shouldn’t require turning, such as in the case of many types of dimmer switches.

- Shelves should be easy to reach. Store items used most frequently at mid-height, so you don’t have to stretch or bend down unnecessarily.

Read More:

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Ground Zero workers at increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis



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Arthritis expert

Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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