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Tips for an arthritis-friendly workplace

The growing discomfort. The feeling of exhaustion earlier and earlier each day. Wishing that your work week could be done by Wednesday … Is it time to ask for some modifications at work to help ease the symptoms of your psoriatic arthritis?

"If people are starting to experience persistent pain that is correlated with their work day, it's better to ask for support or adaptations from their employer prior to having pain on a daily basis," said Teresa Jeardeau, an occupational therapist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Occupational therapists like Jeardeau help those with psoriatic arthritis to make not only ergonomic changes, but also to explore adaptive equipment that might make everyday work tasks less painful.

Small Changes, Big Difference

There are lots of small tweaks, such as taking frequent short breaks that can make job duties less uncomfortable, Jeardeau said, but it's also important to talk to employers about the big picture of making your job more arthritis-friendly.

"The best way to communicate your needs to your employer is to be very upfront and specific," Jeardeau said. "It will typically help an employer if the employee can be as specific as possible with the issues, as opposed to a vague "I hurt when I leave work.'"

Explaining to a boss that a certain task, such as reaching for a computer mouse, not only causes pain, but also slows productivity, can justify the request for a new piece of equipment such as a track pad.

Jeardeau suggests researching options including price, and perhaps trying equipment at home first before asking an employer to make a purchase.

Some common workplace adaptions for those living with psoriatic arthritis include:

  • Switching out a computer mouse for a track pad
  • Moving a keyboard or purchasing a different type of keyboard
  • Changing the position of a computer monitor to between 18 and 22 inches away
  • Using computer glasses (which are different than reading glasses)
  • Adjusting the monitor height so that that the top 25 percent of the screen is at eye level
  • Standing to get items located on shelves instead of reaching up
  • Altering the height of your desk or chair
  • Asking for help when lifting heavy items

Act Sooner Than Later

Jeardeau said neck strain, shoulder pain and wrist pain often occurs when can be attributed to reaching for the mouse or keyboard, or leaning forward to get closer to the computer screen. Without modifications, those repeated actions may cause other health issues, such as tendinitis, which is difficult to relieve.

She adds that if pain continues to "ramp up" throughout the week, and if you constantly find yourself wishing it was Saturday, it's probably past time to talk to your employer about making some small workplace adjustments.

Often, the phrase, "Do you think we could try this at work?" can lead to the types of small changes that make working with psoriatic arthritis just a little easier, she said.

And finally, keep in mind as you approach the boss that steady productivity and fewer missed days ultimately benefit your employer, too.

Learn how to talk to your employer about workplace accommodations »

Learn how to apply for disability if you cannot work »

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