Protecting Your Joints
Why do your joints need protection? RA makes your joints more vulnerable to injury. Inflamed joints can be damaged by everyday activities you may not even think of as risky. And repeated jarring or stress may eventually cause joints to become deformed.
Learning how to avoid overstressing your joints can help you through flares and also help maintain your range of motion.
Joint protection involves first paying attention to how you use your body and then using all of your joints efficiently to avoid excess stress on any one joint. Here's an example: grocery shopping. You want to use your largest, strongest joints for carrying things, so don't carry a heavy shopping bag with your hands, wrists or fingertips. Instead, wrap both arms around and under the bag. And take rest stops to put the bag down. Even
better: Take a cart or a bag with wheels to the supermarket.
Good ergonomics—comfortable and safe positioning at work and at home—can also help protect your joints. Maintain proper posture—don't slouch. And if you spend a lot of time sitting, take a break every couple of hours to get up and walk around for a few minutes. If you spend a lot of time standing, take breaks to sit or lie down.
An occupational therapist can give you practical tips and how-tos for protecting your joints, such as the best ways to open jars (press down with the flat of your hand), and can tell you about assistive devices that may make everyday tasks easier, both at home and at work.
In addition, a splint, brace or cane can provide temporary rest and support for a specific joint. A physical therapist or occupational therapist can fit you appropriately and train you how to use the device properly.
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