Top tips: Living with arthritis and using the bathroom

01 March 2021
A pair of pants with a sanitary towel, toilet and toiletries.
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Using the bathroom whether that’s for a shower or using the toilet can be challenging for people living with arthritis. It’s a topic which should be talked about and not be a taboo, we all need to go for a wee and poo.

There are things you can do to help yourself stay safe and adaptations to make certain tasks easier.

Here we share advice to assist with common problems people have shared with us.

I find it hard to open shampoo and shower gel bottles. Do you have any tips?

It can be tricky for some people with arthritis to open fiddly shower gel bottles or squeeze shampoo bottles, as it requires grip and hand dexterity.

You can buy shampoo and soap bars, or if these are tricky to hold, you can use pump action shampoo and shower gel bottles which are easier to use in the shower.

Wear a waterproof shower cap over your hair when you have a shower if you want to have a day off washing your hair.

Alternatively, use dry shampoo on days when you don’t have the energy or range of movement to wash your hair. Read more everyday tips from people on our Facebook page.

I find it hard to get on and off the toilet. What can you suggest?

It can be difficult lowering yourself down to the toilet and standing back up.

You can get toilet frames to give more support when getting on and off the toilet. You can also get toilet seats which fit over your existing toilet to adjust the height. Check out Arthr’s toiler riser which has been designed to take pressure off the knees, hips and lower back when bending down to sit on the toilet.

If you have any questions about aids and adaptations, you can get more advice from an occupational therapist (OT) and do research on the internet to find out what other products are available.

Doing regular sit to standing stretching and strengthening exercises can also improve mobility and help you when getting on and off the toilet. Improving upper arm strength will also help you if you are using a toilet riser with handles, as you will need to support your weight when you get up.

Consider wearing clothes which don’t have fiddly buttons and are easier to get on and off, especially if you are in a rush.

I find it hard to grip toilet paper. What can help?

If you have hand dexterity problems or pain in your fingers, it might be harder to reach to clean yourself or to grip or pull toilet paper.

You can try using thicker toilet paper which might be easier to get a grip on, or you can look at buying a bottom wiping device.

Alternatively, keep a pack of toilet wipes by the toilet so they are within reach when you need them.

What can I do to help make my bathroom work better for me?

Lever taps are easier to use than ones which you need to twist, and these can be better for people who have arthritis in their wrists and hands.

Try using a long-handled sponge for washing if bending is hard for you.

Invest in an electric toothbrush as they are easier to hold if your hands are hurting and it takes pressure off your wrists. Read more about dental health and psoriatic arthritis.

Having a grab rail installed can help with getting in and out of the bath or shower.

It’s handy to have a non-slip mat in the bathroom to reduce slips or falls. And having a seat in the shower or bath to sit down on when you are washing will take off the pressure of aching knees and hips.

Bath boards can also help with getting in and out of the bath and provide a seated option. Having a seat in the bathroom helps on days when you need to take a break and standing feels more challenging. Speak to your OT for advice on which models available.

What will help making dealing with my periods easier?

Having arthritis can make dealing with periods a bit more challenging. Whether that’s using a tampon, washing or getting sanitary towels in position.

Find what works for you, for some tampons are easier (there are tampon inserters available too) and for other people washable and reusable period panties are best.

Alternatively, using menstrual cups (menstrual cup applicators are available) or sanitary towels without wings can be easier to grip and remove, if you have painful hands.

Preparation can be helpful. keep your supplies in a space easy to reach from the toilet so you can easily get what you need.

Do you have any tips which could help ease joint pain?

Giving yourself more time to have a longer warm shower or bath can be beneficial as the heat from the water can be soothing to stiff joints.

Try using Epsom salts in your bath, they contain magnesium which can help to reduce swelling and pain.

Mix up your routine and switch a morning shower to a longer evening soak. This can help you relax before bed.

Read more about gadgets and adaptations which can help you with your daily bathroom routine.

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