An arthritis gift guide
Activities most of us don't think twice aboutgetting out of bed, sitting in a car, eating a mealcan be incredibly painful for someone with arthritis.
The good news is there are plenty of tools that can make life a bit easier. Many are helpful regardless of the type of arthritis a person has, but we've included some specific suggestions for those with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as well.
RA is an often misunderstood condition that can strike people at any ageincluding in children, teens, and young adults. (RA is a autoimmune disease that requires strong medication to prevent joint destruction; osteoarthritis is caused by lifelong wear and tear on joints.)
The average American spends over two hours a day in front of the computer. All that time could add up to pain and strain, especially for those with arthritis.
The 3M Ergonomic Mouse ($58; amazon.com) got a nod from the Arthritis Foundation for making that screen time a little more comfortable. The mouse has a vertical design that keeps the hand in an easier, handshake position and relies on the thumb muscles to do the clicking, easing the wrist muscles.
Another gift treasured by those whose rheumatoid arthritis has made typing too strenuous is Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software ($100; nuance.com). Once you train your Dragon, it recognizes your voice commands and types up whatever you dictate, at a rate of at least 100 words a minutefaster than the speediest transcribers!
Photo: Getty Images
If your favorite foodie also happens to have arthritis, cooking can be a challenge. Pain can make it difficult to grip utensils or chop fruits and vegetables.
A knife with a nonslip, pressure-absorbing handle makes for safer cutting. OXO Good Grips has a lot of kitchen supplies perfect for someone with arthritis, including this slicer knife ($10; amazon.com). Cutting boards with spikes (amazon.com) that do the gripping for you are also a great choice for the cook in your life.
Photo: Swivel Seat Deluxe
When you have arthritis, standing up after sitting for some time, whether in a car or chair, can be a challenge, says Rhonda Reininger, an associate director in the physical therapy/occupational therapy department at Hospital for Joint Diseases at NYU Langone Medical Center.
Pain in the hips and spine and strain on the neck that comes from transferring in and out of a car or standing up from a seat can be minimized with a car swivel seat cushion that turns 360° ($30; arthritissupplies.com).
Photo: Getty Images
Video games are a must-get gift for older children, and those with rheumatoid arthritis are no exception. Unfortunately, many involve using potentially finger- and wrist-straining controllers.
You're better off opting for one of the Nintendo Wii sports games or Dance Dance Revolution, also available for Sony Playstation 2 ($30 and up; amazon.com).
Research suggests that heat therapy can be effective in providing temporary relief from arthritis pain.
To soothe aching hands, one gift is a warm paraffin wax treatment bath ($30-$160; amazon.com). You can also consider Thinsulate-lined terry cloth mitts ($55; comfortchannel.com), which offer a more mobile way of soaking painful hands in warm wax.
And for the budget-conscious, moist heat pads ($18; target.com), which are available at most drugstores, can be wrapped around the neck, back, and knees to relieve discomfort.
Toys to get moving
It's important for children with rheumatoid arthritis to stay active, says Reininger. "Any gifts that encourage movement and are of particular interest to the child are recommended," she says.
One toy that is sure to be a hit is the Yackle Ball. Invented by a mother looking for a ball that'd be easy to throw and catch, the Yackle Ball is a plushy Frisbee-ball hybrid that comes in a rainbow of colors.
A jump rope or a T-ball set ($15; amazon.com) can also make good gifts, says Reininger, depending on the child's physical capabilities.
**This product is no longer available. Try this Aerobie Pro Flying Ring ($9; amazon.com)instead.
Heat is helpful for muscles, whereas ice is better for sore or inflamed joints, according to John FitzGerald, MD, PhD, an associate clinical professor of rheumatology and arthritis at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine.
The Elasto-Gel Therapy Mitten ($44; arthritissupplies.com) can be chilled or heated so the user can choose between fire and ice.
Photo: Getty Images
Who doesn't like to giveor geta piece of jewelry? But if the person you love has a joint-damaging condition, you need to keep a few things in mind.
Certain items, such as rings, are a no-noachy, swollen finger joints usually make them difficult to wear. And keep in mind that people with arthritis may have a tough time fastening a necklace or earrings.
Make sure to include a jewelry kit that helps people with arthritis fasten necklaces and earrings with ease, like this Jewelry Helpers Accessory Kit ($37; arthritissupplies.com).
Automatic electric wine-bottle opener
A fine bottle of wine is always a great gift for any occasion. But if you have arthritis, getting the bottle open can be tricky.
Replace all that cork twisting with a one-button-push operation. Check out this automatic electric wine-bottle opener from Brookstone.
**This product is no longer available. Try this Oster electric wine-bottle opener ($14; amazon.com) instead.
Even toddlers and young children can develop rheumatoid arthritis (also known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when it affects people under 16).
For these youngest patients, plush toys make fun and comforting presents. Playskool's Toy Story 3 Plush Mr. Potato Head is the tried-and-true childhood favorite but with Velcro pieces that are easier to attach.
**This product is no longer available. Try this Skip Hop Hug and Hide Activity Toy ($18; amazon.com) instead.
Exercise can help reduce arthritis pain and increase mobility, says Dr. FitzGerald. An exercise bike can be a low-impact way to strengthen muscles, although it is not low budgetyou can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on one. (Before you do, make sure there isn't a medical reason a person should avoid an exercise bike.)
Also consider gifting the person a membership to a gym, like Curves (about $44 per month; prices vary throughout the country), or a yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi DVD ($14; arthritissupplies.com) aimed specifically for people with arthritis.
Most valuable of all? The gift of time. A handmade gift certificate offering to be an exercise buddy for regular walksor any other activity that's realistic for an arthritis patient's physical condition or mobilitycan be great.
Massage and acupuncture therapies
Massage and acupuncture can help relieve arthritis pain, and can be particularly helpful for people with osteoarthritis in the knees and back, according to Dr. FitzGerald. Although it is less clear if these treatments ease RA symptoms, some people who have RA swear by them.
A gift certificate for either therapy makes for a special present, but be sure to get recommendations for practitioners skilled in treating people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.
Photo: Getty Images
Donations to a cause
Giving money to an organization near and dear to someone's heart is a thoughtful gift and a great way to help others.
And for that special someone that simply has it all (and doesn't everybody know one?) a donationunlike another tieis a gift that they can really appreciate.
Consider donating money to the American College of Rheumatology Research and Education Foundation, Arthritis Foundation, or Arthritis National Research Foundation.
For those who love to garden, the right tools can make the difference between making gardening a fun and hassle-free experience and an impossibly painful chore.
Ergonomic gardening trowels, cultivators, and forks ($12 each; arthritissupplies.com) that ease joint stress by reducing how much you need to bend your wrists are a great way to support a gardening hobby.
Customized golf grips
As if the game of golf isn't difficult enough, golfers who also have arthritis can find gripping their clubs a painful experience.
To bring the joy back to the game, you can re-grip someone's golf clubs with a larger grip so it's less stressful to the joints, Reininger says.
It's a pricey gift, thoughanywhere from $5 to $13 per club, depending upon the type of grips used. Bring the clubs to a local golf shop or check Golfsmith to find a location near you.
A good read
You can give the gift of knowledge with reference books that cover the ins and outs of arthritis.
One great pick for anyone with osteoarthritis or RA is The Arthritis Helpbook (amazon.com). It's used by the Arthritis Foundation in its pain-management program. A wealth of useful information, the book offers tips on exercise, eating, pain management, and doctors' visits.
Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis ($16; amazon.com), with its extensive glossary of terms, makes a great gift for anyone wanting to understand RA medical jargon.
Reading is a great escape, but one that might be more pain than it's worth for someone with sore fingers, wrists, or neck.
Audiobooks, often read by the author or a celebrity narrator, are a great and easy way to hear those favorite stories and characters. It's no wonder that audiobooksonce considered exclusively for those with poor eyesight or long commuteshave really taken off.
There are several options for giving audiobooks. Online retailers like Amazon sell audiobooks on CDs. You can also give credits for downloading books at sites like Audible, which may be a simpler option for those with an MP3 player ($23 for a two-book credit).
When buying clothes, in general avoid shirts that need to be pulled over the head or have complicated buttons or fastenings.
The less fussy and easier they are to put on, the better, particularly for kids (Velcro fasteners are a good choice).
And for those engaged in raising awareness about RA or who are just looking for a lighthearted take on a serious topic, consider a cup, T-shirt, or apron specifically geared toward adults and kids with RA. You can find these at Zazzle.com and RAwarrior.com, to name two.
Research has found that relaxation can help people cope with the physical and mental anguish associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
What better way to relax than with the classics? Collections such as Mozart for Relaxation (amazon.com) and Chopin for Relaxation (amazon.com) go for about $11 a CD. Or you can let your special someone make his or her own collection with an iTunes Gift Card.
Research has shown that people with chronic illnesses who educate themselves about their condition and how to best care for themselves can improve their health.
Consider a gift subscription to Arthritis Today, a magazine published by the Arthritis Foundation.
A great gift for people with arthritis, the magazine is chock-full of information about the various types of arthritis conditions and symptoms, the latest arthritis research and treatments, as well as ideas, tips, and guides about how to manage and live with the disease.
A one-year subscription ($13; palmcoastd.com) is the good way to give a gift that keeps on giving.