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Joint protection is a type of training for anyone with arthritis and other conditions which cause painful and swollen joints. Those with arthritis should be trained on joint protection strategies to lessen the pressure and burden on painful and weak joints.
While joint protection does not entail placing yourself in a cocoon of bubble wrap, it is not a complicated concept. Education surrounding joints simply involves being mindful of certain practices to ensure the health and optimal functioning of your body. Some of the most useful joint protection strategies are those which involve conservative methods which avoid painful situations. With this in mind, here are the top 5 ways to effectively protect your joints.
1) Be aware of your pain
Pain is something most people who have arthritis experience. However, pain is not always tolerable and gets in the way of living your life. Some people choose to accept pain as they work, play, and exercise through it. This can be a part of a positive mindset for some but it is not helping your joints in any way.
When your body triggers pain, it’s signaling you to rest so you can recover. This does not mean to lay down for the rest of the night at the first sign of hip pain. Rather, use your better judgment in active situations. If it feels like your joints are not up to being active, cool down and relax.
2) Stay active and fit
Awareness of pain is intended to protect your body by regulating how much activity it tolerates. But this pain should not cause fear from moving altogether. The common saying ‘motion is lotion’ perfectly describes the use of exercise in the healing process. This refers to the idea that motion provides lubrication to your joints and keeps them moving smoothly.
Low-impact exercise is best for someone with arthritis, as this lowers pressure on the joints. Low-impact exercises include swimming, stretching, biking, rowing, tai chi, qi gong, and using an elliptical. While some low-impact exercises are meant to relieve pressure, this does not mean strength-training is off the table. The use of small weights when doing bicep curls is a great way to add strengthening to your workout routine. Incorporating these exercises into your routine is key to maintain a healthy weight, which also protects joints.
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3) Use good lifting techniques
People with physically strenuous jobs are often trained to use appropriate body mechanics to prevent injury. Similar body mechanics should be used by anyone wishing to protect their joints. This includes strategies such as lifting with your knees rather than your back. By bending your knees, your legs are better able to support added weight.
Other tips for good body mechanics include work-related recommendations. This includes assuming an upright posture, using a supportive chair, a cushioned mouse pad, and a monitor at eye-level. Furthermore, when standing, use waist-level or higher work surfaces.
It is also helpful to use muscles rather than joints to complete certain tasks. For example, tense abdominal muscles rather than boosting out of bed with your arms. Try to avoid twisting motions when possible and carry heavy objects close to the body.
4) Work smarter, not harder
The idea of body mechanics involves some planning and is an ideal way to avoid injury. Planning for certain tasks eases the pain that may come along with daily activities.
For example, it is good practice to keep items off high shelves and in easy to reach spaces. Organization assists with eliminating unnecessary movements which aim to get objects out of your way. This will cut down on clutter, saving time and energy for larger and more necessary movements.
Take your time and be mindful of your posture with each motion. This relaxation will increase awareness while also lowering your pain response.
5) Modify your diet
Diet modification helps manage a healthy weight along with avoiding foods that trigger an increased pain response.
First, lower or altogether eliminate your caffeine intake, as this makes already existing pain levels even worse. Try switching from caffeinated soda to natural fruit juices to satisfy your sweet tooth. If caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee is your weakness, try switching to black or green tea. Even black tea (the tea with the highest caffeine content) has less caffeine than coffee.
In terms of food, try adding calcium-rich foods to your routine. Calcium is an important mineral for joint health and plays a large role in growing and maintaining strong bones. Calcium is found in dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, and milk. Furthermore, vegetables such as spinach, kale, collard greens, edamame, and rhubarb provide high levels of calcium hidden sources of calcium. High-protein sources that contain ample calcium include lentils, beans, fish, nuts, and tofu. A balanced diet with sufficient vitamins and minerals will assist in keeping your joints healthy and reduce pain.
In the end, following these strategies to protect your joints from wear and tear can help you reduce your pain from arthritis. If these strategies are not helping your pain or are too difficult, talk to your physical or occupational therapist. It is important to keep a close eye on your symptoms while taking the appropriate steps to prevent further injury. Incorporating these methods into your day is the best way to stay safe and live life to the fullest.
- Arthritis Foundation. (2017). Joint protection tips. Retrieved from https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/pain-management/joint-protection/16-joint-protection-tips.php
- Jennings, K.A. (2018). Top 15 calcium-rich foods. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/15-calcium-rich-foods
- Mayo Clinic. (2018). Rheumatoid arthritis pain: Tips for protecting your joints. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/rheumatoid-arthritis/in-depth/arthritis/art-20047954