Polls of adults between the ages of 50 and 80 found that one in ten experience severe arthritis pain. Another 31% rated it as moderate. People have different tolerances for pain, and managing that pain is important no matter how mild it is.
Severe arthritis pain is a leading cause of disability. If your mom’s joints ache so much that she cannot go up and down the stairs, button or zip her pants or coat, tie her shoes, or hold a knife and fork, it’s going to impact her quality of life. Occupational therapy is important to prevent her from having to rely on others for everything.
What Happens in the Initial Assessment?
In the first meeting with an occupational therapist, your mom is going to share information about what she can do on her own and what she can’t. She’ll talk about what keeps her from being able to do something, as there may be adaptive equipment, such as a grabber, that enables her to become more independent.
As the occupational therapist gets to know your mom’s strengths and limitations, a plan is developed to help your mom gain independence. It’s going to include exercises for her to practice alone and with others.
Thumb and Finger Exercises
If arthritis affects the joints of the finger and makes it harder to grasp items, thumb exercises are important. One of them involves taking your thumb and moving it so that it extends across the palm toward the pinkie finger. The goal is to touch the base of the pinkie. Keep repeating this exercise to build strength in the thumb muscles.
Another is to stretch the hand out so that the palm is open. Tap the thumb on each outstretched finger. Do this with both hands as often as possible.
Scrunch your hand up in a fist and then release it making sure all fingers stretch out as fully as possible. It’s good exercise for limbering the joints when you have rheumatoid arthritis.
Put your hand flat on a table with the palm facing down. Slowly lift one finger without allowing the other fingers to rise. Lower that finger and raise the next. Keep doing this until you’ve worked each finger a few times.
Exercises for the Arms and Legs
If you have ankle pain, sit in a chair and extend your feet. Point your toes at the wall and bring them back towards your body. Roll the foot to one side and then to the other. Switch your feet and repeat these stretches a few times.
Shoulder rolls help keep the shoulders limber. Roll the shoulders to your ears, backward, and return to the normal position. Switch directions and make sure you’re rolling them as far as you can.
Hire occupational therapy to help your mom regain the ability to care for herself. She can have her family and friends helping out, but she’s going to want her independence, too. When arthritis pain is debilitating, occupational therapy helps her learn new ways to do things that she needs to do each day.