Inflammation of a joint or joints is the body’s reaction to a disease process, such as arthritis, that can cause swelling, redness, pain, and loss of motion to the affected area. This inflammation can damage healthy structures, which in turn, can impact the function of your joints.
We only get one set of joints. How do we best protect them from damage, especially following a diagnosis like arthritis or any other disease and/or reaction to medication that can cause inflammation to the joints? The answer, joint protection techniques.
Joint protection techniques consist of recommended ways to perform your activities of daily living with minimal amount of stress to your involved joints so that, pain is reduced, joint structures are preserved and energy is conserved.
1. Respect pain: Try to stop an activity or exercise when you begin to feel fatigued or discomfort, before you feel pain. If you feel pain for more than one hour after discontinuing an activity, next time try to reduce the time or effort you spent on the activity.
2. Strive for a balance between work and rest: Enough rest is vital for people with chronic pain and systemic disease. Resting before becoming overly tired will increase your endurance for an activity.
3. Maintain muscle strength and joint range of motion: Your daily activities may be sufficient to do this, or you may have an exercise program provided by your doctor or therapist. An isometric exercise program (muscle contraction without movement) can be effective.
4. Reduce the effort needed to do a job: This will cause less stress and pain in your joints and help conserve your energy. For example:
5. Avoid positions of deformity:
6. Use larger/stronger joints: they tolerate stress better. For example:
7. Use each joint in its most stable anatomic and functional plane. This will avoid excessive stretch on joint ligaments and make the best use of your muscle power:
8. Avoid staying in one position for a prolonged time. This can cause muscle fatigue, joint stiffness and pain. A general recommendation is to change your position or stretch every 15-20 minutes.
9. Avoid activities that cannot be stopped if you feel stress and/or pain. Examples of some helpful items are a wheeled cart for transporting items or a shower chair to allow you to sit during bathing.
By incorporating some of these simple techniques into your ADL routine, you can reduce the rate of damage to your joints.