Caring for your joints

Arthritis is a condition which affects the joints of the body, often restricting their movement and your overall mobility. The effects of this have a strong impact upon many aspects of your life such as work, relationships with others, social activities, leisure and jobs around the home.

The important issue is to prevent further damage to your joints. Your joints have already been attacked as a result of arthritis which causes pain, swelling and inflammation. In some cases this leads to the joint becoming deformed which can be disabling.

Caring for your joints is discussed as follows:

  • Joints TLC
  • Joints protection plan
  • Practical changes

Joints TLC

So what does this mean for you? It means taking a bit extra care when carrying out everyday tasks to reduce the risk of further damage. So, in other words, give your joints a bit of tender loving care or ‘TLC’ for short.

Problems with the joints such as arthritis mean that they do not function as normal. Your flexibility and ability to perform a full range of movement is limited. You experience pain and stiffness and find it difficult to put any weight on the affected joint.

You probably find it increasingly difficult to grip an object, lift something or become tired more easily when carrying out a physical task. You may have to rely on your family or friends to help you with even the simplest of tasks.

Joints protection plan

One idea is to have a ‘joint protection plan’ which is designed to helps you to look after your joints. But before we discuss that here is a quick recap about the problems of arthritis joints.

A big problem with arthritis is pain but this can be controlled. Your GP can prescribe pain relief for you and suggest ways of easing this. This is discussed in a separate section entitled pain relief.

The affected joints become stiff and inflamed. They increase in size and become deformed. The muscles around the joint become weaker which pushes the joint out of its natural alignment. This unbalances the joint and causes it to become unsteady.

Tendons and ligaments are stretched out of shape and become slack, losing their ability to support the joint.

Not great news is it?

So what can you do? Start planning ahead as soon as you are diagnosed with arthritis. The earlier you start doing this the better. Suggestions for your plan include:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Prioritise your days so that you carry out the most difficult or demanding tasks when you are most able to.
  • Prioritise your daily tasks and do not be afraid to ask for help if you need to.
  • Undertake some form of exercise and on a regular basis
  • Ensure that you get as much sleep as you need
  • Perform hand exercises to improve your grip and flexibility
  • Avoid repetitive movements or remaining in the same position for a long time.
  • Make a note of which tasks you find more difficult than others
  • Avoid awkward movements or actions which put a strain on your joints.

Practical changes

Here are a list of practical suggestions for changes at home or when out and about. Many of these are quick and relatively simple to do but will result in a noticeable difference.

These include:

  • Look carefully at the way you lift an object or perform a task. Think about other ways of doing this which are easier and less likely to put pressure on your joints.
  • Use larger parts of your body, for example your shoulder to open a door rather than trying to grip the door handle.
  • Ensure that the weight is evenly balanced when trying to lift something. Do not try and pick a heavy object up with one hand or at an awkward angle.
  • Avoid excessive gripping actions. Use a soft cloth or foam padding around an object.
  • Push heavy objects along rather than lifting them
  • Use gadgets specially designed for arthritis sufferers, e.g. devices which help you to turn a tap or open a tin.
  • Get up and move around during the day. Avoid sitting down for long periods of time.

Speak to an occupational therapist as he/she can suggest ways of making these easier to do. He or she can visit you at home and will recommend a few adaptations to your normal daily routine.

There are a few changes that can be made to your home which are discussed in another section –adapting your home.

Fatigue is a constant issue with arthritis and people with this condition often find that tasks become harder when they are tired, which can cause them to put additional pressure on their joints.

Plus this fatigue often causes your joints to feel more stiff and painful than usual.

The message here is to find what works for you and stick with it. There is help available but this has to be combined with personal responsibility.

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