Are you experiencing pain during your daily activities due to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or osteoarthritis (OA)? Are you looking for something to help you enjoy the activities you like with less pain? If so, you may want to consider how joint protection might be helpful.
Joint protection is a proactive approach you can employ in tandem with or before seeking care to reduce pain in the affected joints and maintain functional ability by adjusting movement patterns and changing activity habits.
Joint Protection Principles
1 – Respect pain
- It’s always ok to discuss your pain and ask for help from your doctor and family members.
- Listen to your body. Take a break when needed.
- Avoid positions that cause or increase pain.
2 – Use stronger/larger/more joints
- Carry things in two hands instead of one. Use a cart or a backpack to help if needed.
- Open jars by using your palm instead of your fingers – or use a jar opener.
- Hold the bag in your arms against your torso instead of carrying it with your hands.
3 – Avoid staying in one position for a long time
- Plan breaks to stretch.
- Change positions often. If you’re used to sitting in one position for a long time during your day, try standing for 5 minutes every half hour. If you spend a long time doing table tasks, a height-adjustable desk might be helpful for you to change position from sit to stand or vice versa during the task.
4 – Balance activity and rest
- Rest before feeling tired.
- Plan more breaks for longer or more difficult tasks.
- Avoid starting new tasks when you feel tired.
5 – Plan the task ahead
- Do it in the most effective way. You can break the task into steps and finish each step according to your schedule and energy level. Planning the task ahead can help you avoid spending energy in vain.
- Use assistive equipment, such as a reacher (grabber) or jar opener, to save energy and time and protect your joints.
- Plan tasks wisely through the day. Avoid doing many tasks within a short period of time.
- Use the least amount of force needed for the task.
Incorporating these principles may help you reduce pain and fatigue experienced with activities. You can also discuss with your doctor or therapist for a more detailed and individualized plan.