Joint protection is important with arthritis for the following reasons:
- To prevent the joint flaring up and causing swelling, pain and stiffness
- To enable the joint to maintain its mobility and the soft tissues their extensibility
- To preserve the lifespan of the joint
- To prevent unnecessary stress on joints in the event of a flare up.
You can help yourself by adopting the following principles:
- By putting your joints through a full range of motion at least once a day. Use the exercise sheet your physiotherapist has given you. Try to exercise little and often, do not do the exercises all at once. Incorporate the exercises into your daily routine, maybe when waiting for the kettle to boil or watching TV
- By dividing the load between joints so that the most painful joints are not used as often
- By pacing your activities; this gives your joints a rest so they are not overused
- By using walking aids appropriately
- By doing the right thing in the event of a flare up. Rest the joint as much as possible, but do not sit for too long. Use ice treatment if the joint is swollen and you are able to tolerate the cold and heat treatment if it is painful but not warm or swollen. Do very gentle exercises as directed by your physiotherapist. If symptoms do not begin to settle within 3 days seek advice from your doctor as your medication may need changing.
These are anti-inflammatory and are available only on prescription. Whichever drug you are given it is critically important that you take it only as advised.
Consult your doctor if:
1. You have taken the prescribed course and have felt no relief
2. If you have any side effects
3. If you have finished your course of drugs and are feeling better –
they may want you to continue
Support bandages should be worn only if your knee is swollen or acutely painful. Do not sleep in a bandage. Their effect is to take over the work of the muscles so you will aggravate the condition if they are worn when it is not necessary.
Local application of heat can give temporary relief to aching joints and relax muscles. Use a hot water bottle. Wrap the hot water bottle in a towel and place around the affected joint. Beware of burns - never use boiling water. Alternatively, use a wheat bag.
Ice treatment can relieve pain and reduces inflammation. Use a bag of frozen peas, wrap in a damp cloth, mould around the joint and leave for 10 to 15 minutes. Reuse as an ice pack and keep in fridge marked 'not to be eaten'.
If the muscles around the joint are strong they will support it and protect it from injury.
For more general advice on arthritis click here.