Gain access to appropiate resources for managing inflammatory arthritis
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Inflammatory arthritis such as Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can cause pain and fatigue, which can impact everyday life.
You may also experience limited mobility, especially if you’re having a flare up. This can present a particular challenge if you’re trying to manage work commitments alongside your condition.
Jobs that offer flexibility, such as the ability to work from home or have a flexible schedule, can help to manage these difficulties.
Flexible working looks different to everyone and isn’t possible with all job types. No matter how flexible your role is, most jobs do involve some travel, even if it’s just commuting back and forth to the workplace.
Whilst arthritis can make independent travel complicated, with the right preparation, it’s not only possible, but it can also be enjoyable and highly liberating.
In this section of our guide, we’ll explore a range of options for those commuting to work, providing advice on how to select the best mode of transport for you, and how to prepare for your trips to and from work.
Using Public Transport
Travelling by rail, bus, tram and plane are all viable options for those commuting to work or taking a work trip, but travelling with RA can be challenging when you’re struggling with pain and fatigue, or finding daily activities difficult.
You should think about the timing of your journey. For example, you may be struggling with joint stiffness early in the morning and need some time to get your joints moving. This might mean that you have to wake up a lot earlier than usual to get ready for work, which can be difficult if you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep due to your arthritis.
Try to avoid commuting on public transport during peak hours, as this can present its own challenges. Travel in peak hours can take longer due to traffic, and it may require sitting or standing for long periods of time, which can exaggerate your symptoms.
One solution could be to talk to your employer about working with a more flexible schedule. If you can adjust your start and finish times to avoid having to travel during peak hours, this could be a great help.
Here is a template you can use to send an email to your boss about your transportation difficulties:
Subject: Request for Assistance on [Specific Task/Project]
Dear [Boss’s Name],
I am writing to request reasonable adjustments to my work schedule. As you may be aware, I consider myself a disabled person under section 6(1) of the Equality Act 2010.
I want to provide some background regarding my condition and its impact on my day-to-day tasks. [Explain your condition and how it affects your work, including any specific disadvantages you face. You can mention if you require multiple adjustments.]
Section 20 of the Equality Act 2010 outlines the legal duty of employers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees who face substantial disadvantages compared to their non-disabled counterparts. These adjustments can encompass:
- Changes to the physical environment.
- Alterations to organisational practices, policies, and procedures.
- Provision of auxiliary aids.
In my case, I believe the following adjustments are necessary to address the disadvantages I face:
[Explain the specific changes you require, how they will mitigate your disadvantages, and why these adjustments are reasonable considering the size and resources of the employer. Anticipate potential objections and address them proactively, whether related to cost, human resources, or practicality.]
I request a written response to this request within  days. I will discuss this further to provide additional context or clarify any details. Additionally, I am open to being referred to an Occupational Health practitioner who can assess my needs and offer recommendations.
I look forward to receiving your response.
Travel to the station/airport
The commute begins before you hop on a bus, catch a train or board a plane; it begins the moment you leave the house. So, before you decide on your mode of transport, you should first take into account:
How will you get to the bus/rail station or airport?
How much will this journey add to your total travel time?
When it comes to calculating commuting time, Google Maps can be a great place to start. It will calculate:
How far you’ll be travelling
How long your journey is (by train, bus, car, or on foot)
How traffic and road works might affect your journey
Most public transport hubs, including train stations, railway stations, bus stations and airports, have initiatives in place to support travellers with additional access needs.
However, when you’re planning to take a trip, whether short- or long-distance, it’s always a good idea to do some research ahead of your journey. That way you can check whether your healthcare and mobility needs will be met.
When thinking about accessibility, you might want to bear in mind:
How accessible is the station itself? If you’re travelling with a wheelchair, will there be stairs or narrow corridors to contend with?
Is there a long walk from one station to the next (e.g. tube) if you need to change transport?
Does the transport hub have dedicated spaces for rest and relaxation?
Are there transport staff on hand to help if you need them, or will you need to book this in advance?
Are there facilities on site providing food or refreshments?
If you think you might need extra support while travelling, you may be able to register for a passenger assist scheme. Most airports, and some train companies, have these schemes in place.
Once you’ve registered, you’ll be given a lanyard to wear which tells transport staff and other passengers that you might need additional care and attention.
In some cases, you can pre-register before your travel date. Get in touch with your travel provider to see if this might be an option for you.
If you’re travelling in London, Transport for London can provide a ‘Please offer me a seat’ badge for you to wear and use on the Underground, as well as on city buses, river transport and Overground services.
Planning your journey to allow for breaks along the way, where you can move around and stretch your legs
Bringing along anything that will help you feel more comfortable, like a travel pillow and blanket
While on the move, it’s always a good idea to try and change position as often as you can to avoid stiffness. You could also combat discomfort by doing some simple stretching exercises during your journey.
Travelling with equipment or luggage
Carrying around luggage and equipment, such as a laptop bag, rucksack or suitcase filled with travel essentials, can present an added challenge for your trip, especially on days where fatigue and joint pain is already high.
It’s important to remember to prioritise joint protection when you’re travelling. To do this, you should try to take a preventive approach and manage how you’re loading your joints.
Using ergonomically designed luggage and travel accessories could be a potential solution.
If you’re travelling alone, it’s also a good idea to think about where your luggage will be stored during transport. Keep in mind that you might need to ask for help if your luggage needs to be kept in an overhead locker, for example.
Travelling to different time zones
Long-distance journeys can be challenging for a number of reasons. When travelling long-distance, you’re likely to be seated for long stretches of time. This can cause discomfort, stiffness and pain in the muscles and joints.
If you’re travelling further afield, you might also be landing in a different time zone, which can lead to jet lag. Jet lag can cause additional strain that it’s important to be aware of, especially when added to existing fatigue.
Symptoms of jet lag include:
Disrupted sleep schedule
Loss of appetite
Stomach pain or discomfort
Whilst there’s no real way to fully prevent jet lag, there are a few steps you can take to reduce its effects, including:
If you’re travelling to attend a particular event, it could be a good idea for you to arrive in your new time zone a few days early to give your body time to properly adjust.
Rest well before you travel
If you’re already fatigued before you travel, your jet lag might be worse. Be sure to rest well in the days running up to your travel date.
Make gradual adjustments to your schedule before you leave
When you land in your new time zone, it can take a while for your body to catch up. To help your body adjust more quickly, try gradually altering your sleeping and eating schedule in the days leading up to your trip. If you’re travelling east, try to eat and go to bed an hour earlier than you usually would. If you’re travelling west, shift your eating and drinking to an hour later than usual.
Drink plenty of water
Dehydration can make the effects of jet lag worse, so it’s important to stay hydrated throughout your journey. Avoiding coffee and alcohol is also a good idea.
Stick to your schedule as much as possible
If it will be nighttime when you land in your new destination, try to sleep while you travel to help your body clock readjust. Travelling with ear plugs, headphones, an eye mask and a blanket can help make your journey more comfortable and give you the rest you need.
Driving with Arthritis
Having access to a car of your own enables you to stay mobile and independent. Driving can not only open doors for your career, as your commute may be easier to manage, but it can also empower you to remain social, too.
To ensure you can continue to drive safely and comfortably, it’s important to take a few key factors into consideration.
In this section, we’ll explore some of the preparations you can take, and adaptations you can make to your vehicle, to make sure you stay safe on the road.
How to find the right car
Before you begin your search, it’s a good idea to ask yourself a few key questions. When considering these questions, try to think not just about your current needs, but also about any circumstances that may change in the future.
1) How will you get in and out of the car?
Would wider or higher doors make getting in and out of the car easier?
Will you require specialist equipment to help you access your car?
Considering questions such as these should help to narrow down your search list.the list of appropriate models.
2) What features will help you feel to make sure you’ll be comfortable in the driving seat?
3) Will you need specialist controls to help you stay safe on the road?
Some models may come with required controls built in, but if not, you may be able to find a model that you can adapt with additional controls. allows you to make the necessary adaptations.
4) Will you need to carry any specialist equipment with you?
If so, will you need extra space in the car?
If you use a wheelchair, what accommodations will help you to get in and out of the car more easily?
Will you be loading and unloading your wheelchair from the boot, or will you be searching for a vehicle that allows you to travel sitting in your wheelchair?
If you take all of the above into account, this should help you in your search for the ideal car.
Here’s a list of our top tips for narrowing down your search:
1) Go automatic
An automatic vehicle is easier and less physically demanding to drive than one with a manual gearbox, as you won’t need to use the clutch to regularly shift between gears.
2) Look for a car with power-assisted steering
Most modern cars come with power-assisted steering built in. If the steering still feels too heavy, a specialist converter may be able to make the steering lighter for you.
3) Think about the ignition
If your RA limits movement or causes pain in your hands, wrists and arms, turning the key to start the ignition in your car can be difficult, even impossible on days where your joints are particularly stiff.
A push-button ignition can take the stress out of starting up your car. A lot of models with push-button starts also have a keyless entry system, which will unlock the car automatically for you when you’re in range and allow you to start up the vehicle as long as you have the key with you.
How to anticipate the challenges
With the right preparation, some of the challenges of driving with arthritis can be reduced.
Here are some of the everyday challenges that come with driving, and some helpful tips for overcoming them.
1) Getting in and out of the car
If your joints are stiff and painful, a car with wider doors might allow you to get in and out easier as you won’t have to bend quite as much. On the other hand, if you have weakness or tenderness in your joints, smaller doors will be easier for you to manage.
Cars with three doors generally have wider doorways than cars with five doors, so this is a key thing to keep in mind when searching for your next vehicle.
You should also consider the height of the vehicle and make sure the seats aren’t too high or too low for you to comfortably access.
Some other accessibility features to look out for include:
Doors that open and close smoothly
Doorways with no sills, or with low, narrow sills
Conveniently placed handles that will provide extra support for getting in and out of the car
Electrically-operated seats that allow you to easily adjust your positioning
The best way to get into your car is to sit in the seat first and then turn to bring your legs in. Do this in reverse to get out of the car easily.
If this is difficult for you, there are a couple of things you can do to make it a bit easier:
Try looping a strong length of fabric around your foot so that you can pull it over the doorsill by hand. You could also hook a walking stick underneath your foot and pull your legs in that way.
If swivelling your body in the seat is an issue, you could place a plastic bag on your seat to make this easier. There are also specialist swivelling cushions available. Whichever method you opt for, you’ll need to make sure you can remove it from your seat before you set off.
To help you with reaching and securing your seat belt, a lot of modern cars have an adjustable seat belt fixing. You can also find accessories that make the seat belt easier to reach or adjust so that it sits more comfortably.
2) Using your mirrors
You need to make sure you can use your wing mirrors and rear view mirror easily to look out for other road users while driving.
A panoramic mirror can replace your standard rear view mirror to help with increasing your visibility while driving. This can be particularly helpful if you have pain and stiffness in your neck.
You can also combat blind spots in your car by installing additional mirrors to your doors.
3) Braking and accelerating
If you’re comfortable using one or both feet, you may be able to drive an unadapted automatic car.
Whilst the brake and accelerator is usually controlled with your right foot, if this isn’t possible, one option could be to have an accelerator fitted on the left side of the brake pedal (where the clutch would sit in a manual vehicle) so that the vehicle can be operated with your left foot instead. These are usually made removable so that other people can drive your car if necessary.
If you don’t have use of your legs and feet, ask for advice from your doctor about whether hand controls are likely to make your arthritis worse. If you drive an automatic car, you can then approach a specialist converter to have hand controls installed. They might also install a footrest and a guard to keep you comfortable and stop your feet from interfering with the foot pedals.
4) Turning the steering wheel
When stiffness and tenderness is a particular problem in your hands and wrists, gripping the steering wheel can be painful.
If you find the steering in your car to be too heavy, speak to a specialist mechanic about making it lighter.
Another way to make steering easier is by covering the wheel with a foam tape or a thick steering wheel cover.
If you need to steer with one hand, you can have a steering ball or spinner fitted, which will free up your other hand for using the hand controls. Spinners are available in different shapes and sizes, so you should be able to find one that’s easy to grip and comfortable to use.
How to prepare for your journey to and from work
Now that you’ve sorted getting into your car with ease and made adjustments to ensure you can sit and drive comfortably, it’s time to consider some of the other challenges that may be presented in your journey to work.
When preparing for your journey to work, think about:
How long will you be driving?
Be sure to give yourself plenty of time before you need to set off to make sure you can get yourself comfortable in the driving seat without having to rush.
You should also calculate your journey time before you set off and allow extra time for comfort breaks in case you need to stop at any point to move around and loosen up stiff joints.
Where will you park your car?
Is there assigned parking at your place of work, or is it first come, first served? If so, it’s a good plan to try and get to work a little bit early to make sure you can get a parking spot that’s close by.
If the car park has disabled bays, consider applying for a Blue Badge so that you can make use of them.
If you have to park your car off-site, where will it be? Be sure to consider the length of the walk from your car to your work building when making your journey preparations, and make sure the walk is achievable without putting yourself under too much strain.
Wherever you park, be sure to give yourself enough space to easily access your car. If you’ll need to fully open your door to get in and out comfortably, try to park in a space that won’t restrict you. If you’ll be unloading any specialist equipment or a wheelchair, try to avoid parking in a space that restricts access to your boot.