Most forms of arthritis involve damage to the joints of the body in one form or another, and most forms of arthritis result in permanent deterioration of one or more joints over time. Using the body incorrectly during work and leisure activities can add to the damage that arthritis causes and actually speed up the deterioration, resulting in disability at an earlier age. Joint protection techniques can help slow the progress of this kind of damage. By using joint protection techniques, you can prevent additional damage to your joints.
Joint protection means just that - techniques to protect the joints. Most of these techniques follow the basic principles of body mechanics and overlap with work simplification techniques. The main principles include using larger joints when possible, spreading weight across multiple joints, keeping weight close to your body, and counteracting potential joint deformities.
First, use larger joints when completing tasks whenever possible. For example, when carrying a purse, use a shoulder strap and carry the purse on your shoulder, a larger joint, instead of carrying it with your hand, which uses the smaller finger joints. Keep your back straight and lift a heavy box with your knees, larger joints, rather than bending at the waist and lifting with the smaller joints between the vertebrae of your lower back. Push heavy items across the floor with your feet, using the larger joints of your legs, rather than carrying them or pushing them with the smaller joints of your arms. These are a few examples.
In addition, spread weight across multiple joints when possible. A good example of this principle is sliding your hands underneath a pan of food and spreading your fingers to carry the pan, distributing the weight across your hands, wrists and forearms. This distributes the weight more evenly and decreases stress on all the joints. Placing your forearms under a box to carry it is another example.
Next, keep weight that you need to carry or push close to your body. Your larger joints are closer to your body and can handle more weight more easily than your smaller joints. When carrying a heavy item, pull the item close to your chest or stomach and put your forearms under the item for support. This puts the strain of the weight on your trunk, shoulder and elbow joints. When pushing a heavy item, lean into the item and push with your forearms or your shoulder. This keeps the weight off of your wrists and hands and keeps the strain closer to your trunk.
Finally, try to complete tasks in ways that counteract possible joint deformities. The best example of this is opening jars by turning the lids toward your thumb. This counteracts possible ulnar deviation of the fingers. Using ergonomic tools designed to keep the wrist and fingers straight will also assist in counteracting this deformity. Counteracting the direction of the deformity may not prevent the deformity from happening, but it will prevent additional strain from occurring to the ligaments that deteriorate as the deformity progresses.
By following joint protection techniques, you should be able to reduce the strain placed on your joints from daily activities. This should help minimize the damage caused by your arthritis and should assist in slowing the progress of the disease. It should also reduce the pain, swelling, and stiffness you feel every day, so these techniques are worth a try.