I need my house to be as uncluttered as possible to prevent injury and to function at my best. Unfortunately, bending over, reaching, grasping, and lifting all take their toll on a body that is compromised by the effects of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). A day of housecleaning can mean a day or two without function to recover. Then, the additional housework piles up. It’s a dilemma.
Abandoning housework is not a viable option. So, in addition to encouraging my children to share the chores, I avail myself of techniques and adaptations to complete household tasks and improve my quality of life. My personal “drop-down menu” includes adaptive aids and orthotics, and over time, I have made body mechanics and carefully chosen household appliances my default settings.
My physical therapist taught me some body mechanics to minimize the stress on, and avoid injury to, my muscles and joints while performing a variety of household tasks.
Don’t be a sloucher!
I tend to sit with crossed legs, but I know that crossing my legs or otherwise positioning my legs and feet incorrectly when seated causes strain and pain. It also makes it more challenging to align the rest of my body into a neutral posture. Good posture reduces pain, whether I work while sitting or standing.
Paying attention to how my body moves, and avoiding lifting while overextended prevents unnecessary strain on my muscles and joints. For example, this is important when I unload groceries and put them away, and when I use the dishwasher, washer, and dryer. Holding my arms out to wash dishes in the sink induces temporary paresthesia of my hands and arms, so at the first sign of discomfort, I take a break. I sometimes open a lower cabinet door and place one of my feet on the ledge to reduce the strain on my back.
POTS affects my pots — or at least how I wash them.
I regulate how often I use a particular part of my body to preserve function. For example, I implement occasional “hand rests” to reduce severe pain and maintain the use of my hands. I pay attention to my body and try not to work through the pain.
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a condition commonly comorbid with classical EDS and hypermobile EDS that affects the autonomic nervous system and causes poor blood flow to my upper body while standing. Limiting the amount of time I spend standing, particularly when washing dishes, reduces the dizziness, nausea, and muscle aches that POTS causes me.
I find that taking several short breaks allows me to be more productive than if I try to push through the pain. Little things add up, and simple modifications to my movements along with proper rest improve my ability to function.
Appliances or cleverly disguised adaptive aids?
Gadgets and appliances add fun to daily chores. Before EDS affected my hands, I based my purchasing decisions on product efficiency and consolidation of functions that saved time and space. And, of course, the purchase price could eliminate a choice before its merits were even deliberated. EDS has changed that.
Life with EDS affects my choices
The two most attractive features an appliance can offer me now are hand-function preservation and pain-free task performance. Straining different parts of my body to move it around would negate any benefits to my hands, so the appliance must also be easy to use and store.
I reserve countertop space for frequently used, cumbersome appliances. Appliances that are too large to fit on the counter are kept on a rolling cart in my pantry. Wire racks solved the problem of lifting cans to find what I need. Cups and spices rest on Lazy Susans in the cabinets. Racks for stacking dishes eliminate the need to lift a stack of bowls to get to a plate underneath. Lightweight glass dishes replaced heavy pottery bowls.
Jar openers reduce strain on my hands and wrists, as do ergonomic manual vegetable peelers. I use a food processor for large prep jobs. Due to its size, I keep it on a rolling cart parked in my pantry.
Small bins in drawers make hand-held tools easy to locate. I hang dry measuring cups, measuring spoons, and small tools that I use frequently on a pegboard for convenient access.
The fun isn’t limited to the kitchen! Laundry chutes, rolling baskets, and a folding board simplify moving and folding laundry. Daily robotic vacuuming extends the time between manual vacuuming and relieves my shoulders and back.
I employ traditional adaptive aids when needed, and wear orthotic devices.
Choosing a useful home appliance is based on individual needs, and what helps one person may not help another. Please tell me about your favorite helpers in the comments below. Be sure to include how they help and why you chose them.
Note: Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.