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Joint protection


The information here is intended to supplement the advice given by your doctor. Although you may have arthritis/joint problems there are things you can do to help yourself. The advice here aims to help relieve the effects of the arthritis/joint problems on your everyday activities.

Joint Protection - Why?

- To keep you as active as possible.

- To maintain your independence as much as possible.

- To help you live your life as normally as possible.

- To avoid further damage to your joints.

Joint Protection - How to do it!

Weight - not only is it important to keep your own weight down to reduce stress on your joints, it is also important to use lightweight everyday objects wherever possible, e.g. lightweight cutlery/cups.

Size - many larger items are easier to grasp and reduce stress on your joints than smaller ones; e.g. a chunky pen is easier than a slimline one. If you have difficulty try padding your existing pens, cutlery, combs, toothbrush, etc.

Spread the load - it is always better to use two hands rather than one. Think about using the palms of your hands under a plate or cup instead of taking all the weight through your fingers.

Leverage - to undo screw top jars, taps, or a key in a lock, increasing the leverage reduces the effort required; and thus the strain on your joints. Long handled equipment such as helping hands, long shoe horns, or long handled sponges can all help too.

Furniture height - when faced with a selection of chairs, usually a high on is most suitable. Try to sit on a chair that has arms so you can use these to help you get up. Avoid soft, low chairs so that you can 'sit down' rather than 'flop down'. It is also easier to stand from a high chair and is less stressful on your knees, ankles and wrists. This is also true of a high bed and a high toilet.

Use the largest joint possible - use your shoulder and body weight to push open a stubborn door, rather than your hands. If you have to lean on a table to get up from a chair, use your forearms rather than your knuckles.

Positioning your hands - try to avoid activities that encourage your fingers to drift towards your little finger, e.g. lifting a saucepan with one hand. This can put strain on your wrist and fingers. Use two hands.

Saving energy

Rest and activity - it is important to strike a balance between rest and activity each day. You only have so much energy and will need to spread it out over your working hours. Most people want to be able to enjoy their evening rather than end up flaked out by 6pm. Do not feel guilty about sitting down with your feet up several times a day. Take frequent short rest periods rather than one long one.

Advice/equipment available for daily living activities

Your occupational therapist can discuss and demonstrate any equipment that may be useful to you.

Kitchen/home - use electrical items such as microwaves, food processors, dishwashers and tin openers. Buy more convenience foods, e.g. ready prepared meals, tinned/frozen vegetables and bread ready sliced.

Jars - allow someone else to open new jars. There are a variety of jar openers from hand held to wall mounted. Remember to unscrew jars with your left hand and close with your right. This discourages your fingers drifting towards your little finger.

Taps - tap turners give you leverage to turn difficult taps.

Kettles - use just the amount of water necessary to fill it using a plastic jug. Kettle and teapot tippers are available to help with tipping instead of having to lift and pour.

Plan ahead - do not do all your heavy jobs in one day. Decide what can wait until tomorrow and what someone else can do. Try to avoid rushing and learn to accept help when it is offered. Plan to do all your upstairs jobs at one time thus avoiding trips up and down stairs.

Sit down - whenever you can sit to do a job, e.g. ironing, food preparation, perch on a high kitchen stool or sit at a table. Make sure your work surface is at an appropriate height.

Eliminate jobs that are not essential, e.g. ironing sheets, drying dishes. Use labour saving materials, e.g. duvet, convenience foods, lightweight equipment, cook and serve from the same dish.

Work for short periods only - for longer jobs, e.g. gardening, ironing and painting, break up the job into shorter sessions. Save some energy for the next day.

Organise your cupboards so that the things you use most often are on the shelves which are easiest to reach. Avoid bending to pick things up.

Pans - fill using a plastic jug. Use a wire basket or slotted spoon to lift vegetables from a pan. Allow water to cool and slide the pan along the work surface to empty.

Utensils - buy lightweight utensils that have large grips. Cutlery can be padded or specially adapted cutlery can be purchased. Use lightweight cups or cups with large handles.

Plugs/knobs - try and keep frequently used plugs plugged in as much as possible. Adapted plugs are available to give you a better grip. a 'contour knob turner' may help you with any difficult knobs. Contact your local gas and electric boards who can advise/provide adapted knobs for cookers/fires, etc.

Personal care

Equipment is available for the bath, shower and toilet. If you have any difficulties with personal care in these areas discuss it with your occupational therapist.

Dressing - it is important to take care when choosing new clothes-

Clothes loose enough to get into easily, e.g., tracksuits.
Lightweight fabrics.
Easy care fabrics requiring less laundering.
Front fastenings.

If you are having difficulty getting yourself dressed there is equipment available to help you, e.g. buttonhook, dressing stick, long shoe horn, sock/tights gutter and Velcro tabs. This equipment may also help reduce the effort needed to get dressed.

Footwear - your feet take a lot of weight! It is worth looking after them by-
Wearing good supportive shoes with low heels.
Avoid slippers or try not to wear them for long periods.
Ensure shoes are wide enough to accommodate your toes comfortably.
Choosing slip-on style shoes if laces are a problem.

You may require insoles to support your feet. Your doctor or therapist may recommend these.


Avoid staying in one position for a long period of time. How long can you sit before your joints start to feel stiff? Learn to move or change position before you get too stiff.


Have a firm mattress and lie flat with as few pillows as possible. Never sleep with pillows under your knees - they may stiffen in a flexed position. If you suffer with neck pain don't have too many pillows; these will cause too much flexion of your neck. Your occupational therapist/doctor will advise you if you require a neck pillow.


Don't presume hobbies are to become a thing of the past. It is important to continue your leisure pursuits and maintain your socialising. 'Moderation in all things' is a good maxim to adopt when thinking about sport and exercise. Gentle walking, swimming and cycling is acceptable, but remember to take frequent rests. Avoid sudden stress and jarring movements, such as aerobics, jogging and contact sports. Some hobbies such as knitting or water colour painting may give rise to hand and neck pain. It is important to relax your grip every so often (approx. 10-15 minutes) and exercise your fingers. Some difficulties may be overcome by padding handles, e.g. paint brushes and fishing rods.


Not everyone needs splints, but they can play a very important part in your treatment. When you receive a splint you will be given instructions on how and when to wear it and any information on its care. The majority of splints supplied are for your hands/wrists but they can also be supplied for your knees or elbows.

Benefits of wearing splints-
Pain relief.
Rest - especially when your joints are hot, swollen and painful.
Support - your joints are carefully positioned for good support.
Protection - e.g. work splints to protect your wrists.
Prevention - to avoid problems occurring, or worsening, e.g. your fingers drifting to the side.
Correction - to improve function and help correct problems such as joint stiffness.

From Wrightington Hospital's booklet 'Joint Protection Advice'




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