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Joint protection

How can I help look after my joints?

When you have arthritis, it is important to look after your joints.

The most important thing you can do is keep taking your medications regularly as prescribed by your Rheumatologist and nurses.

As well as taking the medications, there are other things that you can do to help your joints stay as healthy as possible. These are using joint protection, and managing your energy.

Joint protection

Joint protection is a way of looking after your joints. You can keep doing activities you like and need to do, and learn about easier and safer ways of doing them.

Hopefully this will:

  • reduce stresses on your joints
  • reduce pain
  • keep your joints in good positions when you are busy doing things

The ideas and techniques in this resource are ways for you to protect your joints by making small changes or adjustments, or possibly using some gadgets to help.

Always respect pain

You can think of pain when you are doing activities as a warning. If you have pain for over an hour after doing something, you have probably been doing it for too long.

Can you think of something that you do that has given you some pain? How can you tackle this? What else could you do?

Can you break your activity up into shorter ‘chunks’ of time? Can you take a break in your activity? Can you switch to something else for a while? Or maybe keep switching between different things?

It is better for your joints to have breaks during a long activity, rather than doing something all in one go.

Always use a strong joint for the job

Your hand and finger joints are quite small. Sometimes we use fingers, hands and wrists for jobs where bigger joints might be better.

For example, with pushing open a door. Can you avoid using your wrist with hand outstretched, and instead use your shoulder and push forward with your body weight? Could you use your hip to close a drawer? Can you carry bags over your forearms, rather than using your finger or hand joints? What about other bags?

Use many joints rather than one single joint

Think of this as spreading the work across more joints, so no one joint is working very hard. What about holding a cup with 2 hands, to even the load out across your joints?

Avoid overextending

Try to keep joints in normal positions and ranges of movement, and avoid overextending

Try to avoid sitting cross legged (with both knees bent). Try not to lock out knees whilst standing for a while; alternate having one knee slightly bent, then the other.

Move regularly

Your joints work better if you move them regularly instead of staying in one position for a long time.

Try to get up and stretch out every 15-20 minutes.

Take breaks

How do you remind yourself to do this? Can you move around in your classroom?

Get up and move during time spent on your tablet, laptop or your gaming console, and take a 5 minute break every hour at least. Remember to keep moving your head and neck round to relieve the muscle strain of holding your head forward. Check your position, and try to maintain a good posture.

Good posture

Try not to keep a tight and or narrow grip for long periods. For example, use chunkier handled pens or pen grips. Consider getting a book or tablet rest, and take breaks when writing and stretch your hands out.

It is so easy to spend a long time on your phone, and only move a few specific joints during this time. Relax your grip periodically when on your phone, and break this activity up to give your joints a rest from the sustained position.

How much time do you spend on your phone?

Before starting a task

Try not to start something that you will not be able to stop easily if it should become stressful or painful for your joints.

Give yourself time to complete tasks, and allow for breaks. This can help you avoid feeling you have to keep going with something you would rather stop.

Planning your activities will work better for you.

If you were out with your friend and you felt you needed to stop and rest, how would you handle it if your friend wanted to keep going?

Reduce the effort needed to do a job

There are many small gadgets and aids to take the strain off small joints in the fingers, such as pop bottle openers, jar openers, ring pull openers, electric tin openers.

Do you accept help with a task? Or do you like to do things your way, and prefer to do it yourself, no matter if it causes you joint pain?

What does ‘good enough’ look like to you?

Managing energy

Think about how you use your energy throughout the day. This will let you do what you need to do and what you want to do and think about how you could do it. Here are 4 questions to ask yourself before starting with a task or activity:

  • Is this really necessary?
  • Am I the right person to do it?
  • Is this the best way to do it?
  • Is this the best time to do it?

What do you think about these? Are some of your answers ‘no’?  Are there other ways to do this, other times of the day that might work better, or other people better suited to the task?  Could you do it and use less energy, whilst still looking after your joints?

Find a better way

These are some strategies to help you make the best use of your energy.

List your tasks, so you can see what needs to be done.

Prioritise your tasks. How will you prioritise them?

  • Which piece of homework is due in soonest?
  • Do you need to start some revision for the test on Friday?
  • Can you keep on top of everything so nothing gets missed?
  • Should I text and play games first or do homework first?

Plan the order you need to complete your prioritised list, remembering any other commitments you might have.

Pace yourself so you have enough energy for everything you need and want to do. Pacing your activities means having a balance between activity and rest. You complete a task by dividing it up into chunks with breaks between.

Through doing this you can pace your activities and spread them throughout your day, and make sure you are protecting your joints by not over working them. Instead you will be taking a moderate steady pace, and not rushing to complete or do anything.

For instance, you may need to complete some homework. It will take 2 hours. You could do it all in one go.

  • How will your joints feel if you do that?
  • How else could this be done?
  • Can you divide it up into 20 minute chunks, with 2  or 3 minutes break time to come off your laptop or put the pen down, stretch out and move around?
  • How would your joints feel if you did this?
  • How will you know when it’s the next 2 minute break?

For more information about pacing yourself, please visit our resource.

Contact us

If you have any further questions or concerns please contact the Rheumatology Occupational Therapist on 0114 271 7227.

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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