How to Protect Your Joints

When you have arthritis it is important to take as much stress off your joints as possible. On this page, we will give you some advice to ease the demands you place on your body.

Get Some Help

There may be times when your arthritis -- or treatments such as surgery -- make getting around painful or difficult. Fortunately, there are a variety of "mobility enhancers" available that can help keep you moving and preserve your independence.
  • Have railings installed next to your toilet and around your bathtub to make it easier to use these facilities on your own. Be sure all staircases in your home have railings from top to bottom.

  • If climbing stairs is difficult for you, look into having a ramp built to your front or back door to facilitate getting into and out of your home.

  • If you have trouble getting into and out of chairs, try positioning your favorite chair or sofa next to a halfwall or sturdy piece of furniture that you can grab onto and use to pull yourself up. Or have a railing installed next to your chair or sofa to ease your way.

  • To "unburden" yourself when shopping, doing yard work, or even moving from room to room in your home, try getting a small wagon or cart on wheels so that you can push or pull groceries, supplies, and dishes rather than carrying them. Or try getting a comfortable knapsack or fanny pack to carry items; this will lessen strain to your joints.

  • Many larger grocery and department stores offer motorized, sit-in carts for use by shoppers who may have trouble navigating the aisles. Check the stores in your area.

  • If you tire easily when walking, consider getting yourself a cane or walking stick.

  • If arthritis flares sometimes make walking difficult, talk to your physical therapist about whether a walker or even a wheelchair would be a wise option for you. If you do use one or the other, be sure to get instructions for safe use.

    If walking becomes difficult when your arthritis flares up,  talk to your doctor about a walker or wheelchair.
    ©2006 Publications International, Ltd.
    If walking becomes difficult when your arthritis flares up, it might be time to
    talk to your doctor about a walker or wheelchair.

Distribute the Load

One of the most important elements of protecting your joints is learning to distribute the load over larger, stronger joints and larger surface areas. By distributing the weight of objects you are moving or carrying, you reduce stress on weaker joints and help to prevent joint pain. The tips that follow will show you how you can put this principle to work in your everyday activities; for additional instruction in such methods of joint protection, see an occupational therapist.
  • When bending over or lifting, always use your leg muscles to lower yourself to avoid stressing the lower back. Bend your knees rather than bending at the waist. If necessary, use a support, such as a sturdy chair or other piece of furniture, to help raise and lower yourself; in this way, you'll be using the muscles in your arms as well to help distribute the load.

  • When lifting or carrying objects, hold them close to your body. Objects held closer to the body feel lighter and are less likely to cause you to strain your back.

  • Especially if you have hand and finger problems, choose purses, briefcases, and luggage that have shoulder straps. If they don't have shoulder straps, try bending your elbow and looping the straps over your forearm rather than grasping them with your fingers. In addition, pack these items lightly so you don't overstress your shoulder.

  • Carry grocery bags in your arms rather than holding the bags by the handles.

  • Instead of using your finger to press the nozzle of a spray can or close the lid of a container, put the can or container on a flat surface and use the heel of your hand or your elbow to exert the force.

  • When carrying a dish, use a scooping motion with both hands to pick up the dish, and let it rest on your palms rather than pinching it with your fingers. If there's hot food on the plate, use oven mitts that you slip your hands into (rather than potholders that you have to grab with your fingers) to protect your hands.

  • Wrap your hands around cups and mugs to pick them up, rather than looping your fingers through the handles. For hot beverages, use an insulated cup to protect your hands from the heat -- and keep your beverage warm.

  • When wiping a counter or cleaning a window, keep the cloth or sponge flat against the surface and move it around with your open hand instead of grasping it with your fingers.

  • When bathing, use a loofah or bathing mitt that you slip your hand into rather than gripping a washcloth in your fingers.

  • When pushing open a heavy door, use the side of your forearm rather than just your hand.

  • When turning a doorknob, try placing an open hand on each side and, keeping your fingers relaxed, using your palms to twist the knob.

  • Use a "hip check" to close drawers.

  • Use your palm to turn on wall switches.

  • Grasp hanging items, such as dry cleaning, between your two open hands rather than looping your fingers under the hangers.

  • Instead of grasping your laundry basket with your fingers, wrap your arms around the basket and carry it close to your chest.

  • Rest a book or magazine comfortably on your palms or on a tabletop rather than pinching the edges in your fingers.

  • Press down on the pump of a liquid-soap container rather than using your fingers to try and grasp a slippery bar of soap.
Now that we've laid down some general tips, it's time to get into some specifics. On the next page, we will show you how to protect your joints while doing household chores.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.