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When you have arthritis, it's important to pay attention to your body's signals. Overuse of arthritic joints can lead to pain, swelling, and additional joint damage. A physical or occupational therapist can teach you how to conserve energy, protect your joints, accomplish daily tasks more easily, and adapt to lifestyle disruptions. Many of these strategies are simple common sense.

1. Keep moving. Avoid holding one position for too long. When working at a desk, for example, get up and stretch every 15 minutes. Do the same while sitting at home reading or watching television.

2. Avoid stressing your joints. Avoid positions or movements that put extra stress on joints. For example, opening a tight lid can be difficult if you have hand arthritis. One solution is to set the jar on a cloth, lean on the jar with your palm, and turn the lid using a shoulder motion. Better yet, purchase a wall-mounted jar opener that grips the lid, leaving both hands free to turn the jar.

3. Discover your strength. Use your strongest joints and muscles. To protect finger and wrist joints, push open heavy doors with the side of the arm or shoulder. To reduce hip or knee stress on stairs, lead with the stronger leg going up and the weaker leg going down.

4. Plan ahead. Simplify life as much as possible. Eliminate unnecessary activities (for example, buy clothing that doesn't need ironing). Organize work and storage areas; store frequently used items within easy reach. Keep duplicate household items in several places; for example, stock the kitchen and all bathrooms with cleaning supplies.

5. Use labor-saving items and adaptive aids. In the kitchen, use electric can openers and mixers. In the bathroom, cut down on scrubbing by using automatic toilet bowl cleaners and, in showers or tubs, spray-on mildew remover. Other devices on the market can help you avoid unnecessary bending, stooping, or reaching.

6. Make home modifications. Using casters on furniture can make housecleaning easier. A grab bar mounted over the tub is a necessity for many people, as is a suction mat in the tub to prevent falls. Putting a bathing stool in the tub or shower is a good idea for people who have arthritis in the legs.

7. Ask for help. Maintaining independence is essential to self-esteem, but independence at all costs is a recipe for disaster. Achieve a balance by educating family members and friends about the disease and the limitations it imposes and enlisting their support. Ask for help with specific tasks.

Last Annual Review Date: 2013-03 Copyright: Copyright Harvard Health Publications

Reference: Rheumatoid Arthritis section on Better Medicine


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