The number of people with arthritis is staggering. In 2005, 66 million adults in the United States — nearly one in three — had either been diagnosed with arthritis or were living with undiagnosed chronic joint pain and other symptoms. Although the risk of some types of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, increases with age, more than half of those affected by all types of arthritis are younger than 65. In fact, arthritis is the leading cause of disability in Americans older than 15. And if you’re an arthritis sufferer, you know: arthritis is painful and can interfere with your ability to do the things you enjoy, from cooking a meal to playing golf. It doesn’t have to be that way. If you have arthritis, there are steps you can take, starting today, to protect your joints, reduce pain, and improve mobility. The exact strategy depends on the type of arthritis you have, but for most people, there is reason for optimism.

Joint protection strategies – When you have arthritis, it’s important to pay attention to your body’s signals. Overuse of arthritic joints can lead to pain, swelling, and additional joint damage. A physical or occupational therapist can teach you how to conserve energy, protect your joints, accomplish daily tasks more easily, and adapt to lifestyle disruptions. Many of these strategies are simple common sense.

Keep moving. Avoid holding one position for too long. When working at a desk, for example, get up and stretch every 15 minutes. Do the same while sitting at home reading or watching television.

Avoid stress. Avoid positions or movements that put extra stress on joints. For example, opening a tight lid can be difficult if you have hand arthritis. One solution is to set the jar on a cloth, lean on the jar with your palm, and turn the lid using a shoulder motion. Better yet, purchase a jar opener that grips the lid, leaving both hands free to turn the jar.

Discover your strength. Use your strongest joints and muscles. To protect finger and wrist joints, push open heavy doors with the side of the arm or shoulder. To reduce hip or knee stress on stairs, lead with the stronger leg going up and the weaker leg going down.

Plan ahead. Simplify life as much as possible. Eliminate unnecessary activities (for example, don’t buy clothing that needs ironing). Organize work and storage areas; store frequently used items within easy reach. Keep duplicate household items in several places; for example, stock the kitchen and all bathrooms with cleaning supplies.

Use labor-saving items. In the kitchen, use electric can openers and mixers. In the bathroom, cut down on scrubbing by using automatic toilet bowl cleaners and spray-on mildew remover in showers or tubs.

Use adaptive aids. Numerous devices on the market can help you avoid unnecessary bending, stooping, or reaching. Long-handled grippers, for example, are designed to grasp and retrieve out-of-reach objects. People with limited movement might have an easier time getting dressed by using long-handled hooks to put on socks and long-handled shoe horns. Also helpful are shoes that slip on or fasten with Velcro, pre-tied neckties, and garments with Velcro fasteners, zippers, or hooks and eyes instead of buttons. Rubber grips are available to help you get a better handle on faucets, pens, toothbrushes, and silverware. Pharmacies, medical supply stores, and online vendors stock a variety of aids for people with arthritis.

Make home modifications. Using casters on furniture can make housecleaning easier. A grab bar mounted over the tub is a necessity for many people, as is a suction mat in the tub to prevent falls. Putting a bathing stool in the tub or shower is a good idea for people who have arthritis in the lower extremities.

Ask for help. Maintaining independence is essential to self-esteem, but independence at all costs is a recipe for disaster. Achieve a balance by educating family members and friends about the disease and the limitations it imposes and enlisting their support. Ask for help with specific tasks.

At Pain Care of San Diego, located in La Jolla, California, we have qualified chiropractors and physical therapy professionals to assist you with your medical needs. Contact us to schedule a visit today!