Changing one or two shopping habits might reduce your levels of pain and stiffness.

Joint pain and stiffness from rheumatoid arthritis can turn a trip to the grocery store into a major undertaking. Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do to reduce joint strain and discomfort when you shop. Try these tips to make your next trip to the supermarket easier:

  • Plan ahead. Make a list of items you need in the order that you'll come across them in the store. When possible, go to a store you're familiar with so that you won't spend extra steps walking around, looking for what you want.
  • Take your time. When you're in a rush, you're more likely to put unnecessary strain on your joints, wear yourself out or become overwhelmed, so budget an extra half-hour to get your shopping done. Also, take short breaks before and after you go to the store to place a warm or cold compress on troublesome joints. This will also help you conserve energy and relieve your pain.
  • Minimize size. Buy small packages that are easy to lift. Remember, this isn't the only time you'll have to pick that item up. You'll have to lift it each time you use it at home too. Keeping your shopping trips short also can reduce joint strain. Go to the store more often for fewer items instead of putting it off until you have a long grocery list.
  • Buy prepared items. Cut down your cooking effort by purchasing foods that are already washed and trimmed or chopped. Most stores offer fresh fruits and vegetables that are already peeled and diced into bite-size pieces. You can ask an employee at the butcher counter to slice or cube meats so that they're ready to cook.
  • Get assistance. Use a rolling cart, even for just a few small items, and bring a friend or family member or ask a store employee to help with things that are bulky, heavy or hard to reach. Also, consider taking advantage of the personal shopper and delivery services that many grocery stores now offer — especially if you're having a symptom flare.
  • Shop smart. Choose wisely when buying your groceries. Healthy foods, such as fish, olive oil, fruits and vegetables, are high in antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation, while processed foods may increase inflammation.
  • Carry carefully. Choose paper or reusable grocery bags that you can carry against your body. Avoid carrying heavy groceries in a plastic bag hanging from your fingers. If you use plastic bags, place the handle on your forearm and carry one bag at a time.

Try a few of these suggestions next time you're buying groceries. Just changing one or two habits might make a noticeable difference in your levels of pain and stiffness after a trip to the store.

Sept. 15, 2020