Joint Protection for Everyday Living
For some people, managing activities of daily living can be difficult due to joint pain or chronic illness. Joint Protection and Work Simplification are proven strategies that can help you manage these tasks. While some may seem novice, most people find themselves in a routine and may not think to modify in simple but beneficial ways.
If there is a shift in focus from your abilities instead of your inabilities, this will create other options and compensatory strategies for completing any job. The following are some suggestions that could be helpful:
ALWAYS RESPECT PAIN
Pain is an indicator that you may need to change the way you are completing a task.
Consider some of these options:
*Change the position in which you are completing the task. For example, sit down instead of standing to get dressed if back pain or your balance are a challenge.
*Have a chair nearby while washing dishes if standing for long periods of time is difficult.
*Alternate light tasks and heavy ones. You could sit and make a grocery list before standing to prepare a meal or vice versa.
*Always have proper footwear. This is not only for good support, but also for fall prevention.
*Consider the use of adaptive tools. Long handled equipment such as a reacher or shoe horn are especially handy. Ask an Occupational Therapist for recommendations that may help your specific needs.
CHOOSE THE STRONGEST JOINT FOR THE JOB
Use larger joints or muscle groups to help complete the task safely and effectively.
Here are a few ideas it may help to apply:
*Carry a purse on your shoulder or wear one across your body rather than in your hand or on your forearm.
*Slide cooking items across the counter as opposed to lifting them.
*Use your thigh to push in a chair instead of lifting a heavy object with your back and hands.
*Always push, don’t pull. Your legs and back muscles are much larger and stronger than those of your arms.
*Minimize the work load. Consider washing a dish after each use so that your hands do not fatigue from many dishes. Or completing laundry in small loads that can be transported in a reusable bag instead of a large basket.
USE GOOD BODY MECHANICS
*Avoid twisting or awkward positions.
*When sitting, be sure to have good posture and positioning with back support and feet flat on the floor.
*When typing, sitting in a chair with arm supports is most ideal to reduce stress on joints. There are also adaptive keyboards, angled work spaces, and wrist supports as more options.
*When picking items up from low or floor level, bend at knees and hips if you’re able. You can also move the object from one surface to another instead of carrying it a long distance.
*A work station should be an appropriate height for you and well organized with items within reach.
Don’t give your joints the chance to become stiff. A daily exercise routine and stretching program are vital to managing pain, stiffness, and mobility with completion of daily living tasks.
Ask your Doctor or Physical/Occupational Therapist for a program that targets your areas of need.
MAINTAIN HEALTHY WEIGHT
This is a recommendation for overall health and wellness, but of course, extra weight is added stress to your joints. Using appropriate diet, exercise, and nutritional supplements such as FlexicosePLUS (https://flexicose.com) will help aid in managing your joint pain, fatigue, and other symptoms.
For many years as an Occupational Therapist, I have helped people with injuries, joint replacements or surgeries, and some with entirely debilitating acute and chronic illnesses. While our goal is always to restore a person’s ability to complete basic daily functional tasks when able, it is also another treatment approach to use adaptive techniques to promote optimal success and prevent further injury.
The joint protection and work simplification mentioned here can be used as a good initial guide to compensate for and rethink your daily routine while maintaining your independence.
By Lori Glassbrenner, MOTR/L
Master of Occupational Therapy