Arthritis: Techniques for Protecting Joints and Preventing Deformity

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.

With arthritis it's important to protect the joints.  Utilizing larger joints, which are the joints closer to the body protects the smaller less durable joints. 

Bad technique-utilizing                 Better technique- utilizing 
smaller finger joints.                      larger joints.

Principles of Joint Protection:
  • Maintain muscle strength and joint range of motion.
  • Avoid positions of deformity as well as external pressures and internal stresses in the direction of the deformity.
  • Use the largest, strongest joints available for the job.
  • Use each joint in its most stable anatomical and functional plane.
  • Use correct patterns of movement.
  • Avoid holding one position for any undue length of time.
  • Avoid starting an activity that cannot be stopped immediately if it proves to be beyond capability.
  • Respect pain as a signal to stop the activity.
  • Dagger hold for knife to protect joints and avoid deformity.

Examples of joint protection and using the largest, strongest joints available for the job are as follow:
  • Slip a purse, shopping bag, or tote bag over the forearm instead of carrying it in the hand.
  • Press water from a cloth or sponge instead of wringing it out.
  • When using hands to push off when standing up, apply pressure to the heel of the hand only and avoid putting pressure on the fingers.
  • Use adapted tools and utensils with angled handles to eliminate bending the wrist.
  • When cutting with a knife utilize a 'dagger grip', which is basically holding the knife with the whole hand with the blade protruding from the small finger side of the hand.
  • Hold stirring spoons so that the bowl of the spoon is on the small finger side of the hand.
  • Use forearm platform crutches instead of standard crutches, which require body weight to be transported by the hands during ambulation.
I think these principles are important for everyone to practice.  Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease but osteoarthritis is due to 'wear' and 'tear' on the joints which everyone should try to avoid. 
Bad technique utilizing smallest finger joints.
Better technique utilizing larger hand joints.

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