Top tips for using technology with arthritis

This blog has been updated! Originally published 20/08/19. Amended 03/02/22

Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis can cause painful joints including in the wrist and hands. This can make it hard to use computers. Particularly it can be hard using a keyboard and mouse. AbilityNet's Advice and Information Officer answers some of the common questions related to arthritis.

Arthritis pain in my hands. Mouse alternative?

I’m 53 and have been through the menopause. I’ve been diagnosed with nodal osteoarthritis, which causes pain in my wrists and hands and makes it hard to grip a computer mouse. I’m still working, using Windows 10. Can I use my computer without a mouse?

An older lady's hands folded into her lap

A number of conditions can cause hand and wrist pain including osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Gout and Lupus. For people who find using a mouse difficult, there are alternatives to a standard mouse. These include rollerballs and vertical mice. Some users find working with a mouse alternative isn’t possible because they still experience pain. It’s possible to use a keyboard as a mouse, by using Mouse Keys. Using keyboard shortcuts can also reduce the amount of time you need to use the mouse.

Download the AbilityNet factsheet on mouse alternatives for disabled people.

Find out how to use a computer as a mouse for a range of operating systems including Windows 10 with our free tool My Computer My Way.

How can technology help my employee with a physical disability? 

Discover our Don't Disable Me training course series that focuses on the lived experiences of people with disabilities including those who face physical barriers. In the course, you can learn first hand how technology can support people with physical barriers at work, in study and day-to-day life.

Online shopping and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Since being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, typing for long periods of time is painful. I do a lot of online shopping. Is it possible to store my details online so I don’t have to re-type them every time? If so, is it safe to store my address details online?

Cardboard boxes stacked up with Amazon smile logoYou can store some (if not all) of your card and address details online using forms within your web browser. Security concerns are common. We wouldn't recommend this for a shared computer but if it's just you and family members sharing a device at home, it is safe. Thoughtfully-designed websites will provide a remember me option, which is also useful for people living with dementia. You can also use password managers such as Last Pass or Dashlane

I struggle to take breaks when I work. I know I should but I get so involved that I just want to keep on working, despite the pain. Can you help me?

We'd suggest that taking breaks is a really useful way of  helping yourself. Thankfully there a few pieces of software which can help you with gentle reminders to take some time away from the keyboard. Software such as StretchClock can actually help you exercise at your desk.  Other software such as  Ergonomix  and Workrave is also work checking out.  Breaks can encourage you to go and get up and stretch or just go and put the kettle on for a hot drink and enjoy a bit of movement in the process. If you use a smartphone or an ipad you can download software which locks the device, so you are forced to take a break.

Find out how tech and computers can help if you have osteoperosis

Find out why head of inclusion Robin Christopherson thinks passwords may become a thing of the past.

iPhones and Arthritis

I've been diagnosed with arthritis. I use a smartphone. Is it possible my iPhone is making my arthritis worse? What can I do to minimise the pain?

A woman's hands holding an iPhoneThere’s no definitive proof linking smartphone use to arthritis. However, if you’re struggling to use your smartphone because of pain and stiffness in your fingers, you can use Siri to search the web using your voice.

For others who might be using an Android smartphone, you can of course use the "OK Google" command to minimise the time you spend using your hands and fingers on the screen. 

If you have smart speakers at home you can always use your voice to ask it questions.  So for example you can use Alexa or Google home to find out what the weather is or what the latest news headlines are. We've also got a network of volunteers who can come and support you to get your technology working for you more effectively at home

Find out more about accessing speech settings in iOS

Read more about using Siri to search the web using your voice

Juvenile Arthritis

My daughter has juvenile arthritis but wants to study at University. What support is available for her?

a young Asian girl using a computer tablet beside herI'm sorry to hear about your daughter. However, there's no reason why her juvenile arthritis should be a barrier to her attending university, and being successful. AbilityNet is part of a campaign aimed at raising awareness of Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs). DSA is extra funding and support that can help university students with a wide range of disabilities and extra needs to achieve their full potential. The funding comes from the Government and doesn't have to be paid back.

Her university may well be able to offer lots of extra help and support which doesn't require any funding at all. If she has pain and stiffness in her joints there is a range of ways she could adapt her tech to make it easier to use.

To find out how to adapt your tech for mobility issues we have information and support at My Computer My Way.

Arthritis pain in fingers. 

A black keyboard on a black background with keyboard lit upArthritis causes me lots of pain in my fingers especially when using the keyboard.  Are there alternative keyboards available?

There are lots of alternatives to the standard keyboard. If you have difficulties with stretching from one side of their keyboard to the other side it might be useful to consider a small, or compact keyboard. 

If hitting the keys causes you pain you could always consider using a keyboard with a rubberised keyboard, or even one with keys that don't need as much pressure on them.  We'd always suggest getting a keyboard on a sale or return basis, so you can test it out if before you decide to buy it. 

You also might want to consider word prediction software where as you type you get lots of word suggestions appearing so you can easily select them.

Read our factsheet on keyboard and mouse alternatives and adaptions for disabled people

Recording notes in meetings

I need to record notes in meetings. My arthritis means writing is painful. Are there any apps you can recommend? What’s the easiest way of doing this?

People sitting in a meeting pens poised over paper notebooksIt is always hard to suggest specific apps, because they change all of the time. We'd suggest looking online for trusted reviews and then downloading the apps and trying them out to see what works for you. These apps are often reviewed by different people so you can get an idea of which apps are better for you to use. Often, there will be a cut down version so you can try it on a free trial. The quality of smartphone microphones is normally pretty good but if you want to improve it, you could always consider getting an external microphone.  If you are struggling at work and you need to start a discussion with your manager about getting extra support it might be a good first step to fill in a profile on Clear Talents. If you feel that you are struggling at work and need extra support, it might be a good idea to chat to Access to Work to see if they can provide additional  funding for items.

Thumbs stiff from arthritis

My thumbs are stiff from arthritis, which means I find using the mouse very difficult. I don’t know where to start for looking for an alternative. Can you help?

Support Officer answering the AbilityNet HelplineIf you call our Advice and Information service we can talk over your difficulties and try to come up with solutions.  We can point you to suppliers of alternative pointing devices and we can even talk to you about how to use a pointing device with some useful software which means you don't have to "click" the mouse.

Call our helpline on 0800 269 545 (freephone and minicom)


Accessibility and Arthritis Webinar: 12th September, 3pm

If you are affected by Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis, we would love you to join our Accessibility and Arthritis: Your questions answered webinar on 12th September. Members of the AbilityNet and Versus Arthritis Helplines will be online during the webinar to answer your accessibility and arthritis related questions. 

Find out more about the webinar and sign up here


More help from AbilityNet

AbilityNet provides a range of free services to help disabled people and older people.

Call our free Helpline

Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will discuss any kind of computer problem and do their best to come up with a solution. We’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm on 0800 269 545.

Arrange a home visit

We have a network of AbilityNet ITCanHelp volunteers who can help if you have technical issues with your computer systems. They can come to your home, or help you over the phone.

We have a range of factsheets 

Our expert factsheets talk in detail about technology that might help you and can be downloaded for free. You may find our factsheets talking about voice recognition and keyboard alternatives useful.

My Computer My Way

Our free guide to all the accessibility features built into every computer, laptop, tablet and smartphone. We show you the adjustments that can make your time on the computer that bit easier.