How You Can Protect Your Joints

Be Mindful of Your Movements

Woman stretching
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You can avoid damaging your arthritic joints even more, as well as protect your healthy joints, by using common sense, good body mechanics, and assistive devices when indicated. Here are the important steps you need to take to protect your joints:

Do gentle range-of-motion exercises daily. Put each joint through its full range of motion by bending, stretching, and extending the joint and surrounding muscles.

Adjust your activity level according to your pain level. You must learn to respect your pain, not ignore it. If you recognize that a particular activity is causing your pain level to increase, it is time to take a break, if not stop completely.    

Make an effort to maintain your ideal weight. Carrying excess body weight adds significant burden to your joints, especially weightbearing joints, such as the hips, knees, ankles, and feet. It is known that moderate weight loss (e.g., 10 to 15 lbs) can reduce symptoms and slow progression of knee osteoarthritis.

Pace yourself by balancing rest and activity. Don't wait for increased pain to be the signal to stop an activity. Allow for balance by punctuating activity with periods of rest. That's the best approach to pacing your activities and not overdoing.

Use assistive devices to preserve your joints.  There are numerous assistive devices and adaptive aids available to help you with activities of daily living. Painful joints or joints with limited range of motion can interfere with joint function, but assistive devices can help you get a job done while protecting your joints.

Use the largest or strongest joint possible when doing a specific task.  You should use the largest and strongest joints when performing an activity or task. By using larger joints, you will avoid stressing individual joints, smaller joints, or weaker parts of your body.

Avoid excessive pressure or stress on the small joints of the hand. Hand deformity is a well-known characteristic associated with rheumatoid arthritis. The disease can cause ulnar deviation and contractures, among other problems. It makes sense to avoid additional burden on those joints.

Change positions as often as possible.  In keeping with not adding unnecessary stress or burden to joints, it is a good idea not to overuse any particular joint. You should be mindful of changing positions and not imposing repetitive motion on the same joint.

Avoid heavy lifting if possible. Lifting, especially heavy lifting, adds stress and burden to your joints. Don't lift beyond what you are capable of lifting.

Also, use proper lifting technique.

Whenever possible, sit instead of stand. The advice to sit when you can versus stand is true when balancing rest and activity. Take a break. Reduce the stress on your joints. 

Ask for help when you need it.  Know your limits. Recognize when you can't do it all yourself. Recognize when you are overworking your joints and when you could use help from someone else.

The Bottom Line

If an activity feels like it is too much for you, it is too much. Know and respect your limitations. Don't overdo and force yourself beyond the limitations you have identified. Be mindful of healthy levels of activity. Regular exercise will help to keep your weight in check and will strengthen the muscles that surround your joints. A sedentary lifestyle is not optimal.  You must move, but your movements must not stress or burden your joints. Know the difference between healthy movement and movements that put your joints at risk.

Source:

Joint Protection Techniques. Chapter 14. Stitik and Hochberg. Osteoarthritis Diagnosis and Medical/Surgical Management. LWW Fourth edition. 

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