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Reducing the strain on your joints

Apart from keeping an eye on your weight, there are a number of other ways you can reduce the strain on your joints:

Pace your activities through the day – don’t tackle all the physical jobs at once. Break the harder jobs up and do something more gentle in between. A chart can help you to plan your daily activities and monitor when they cause extreme tiredness (fatigue) or affect your symptoms.

Download a sample daily activity and fatigue chart (PDF, 128 KB).

Wear low-heeled shoes with soft, thick soles (trainers are ideal). Thicker soles will act as shock absorbers for your feet, knees, hips and back. High heels will alter the angle of your hips, knees and big toe joints and put extra strain on them.

Read more about choosing footwear when you have arthritis.

Use a walking stick to reduce the weight and stress on a painful hip or knee. A therapist or doctor can advise on the correct length and how to put your weight through the stick instead of your affected joint.

Use the handrail for support when climbing stairs – this is particularly important if you have osteoarthritis of the knee.

Keep your joints moving – in particular, don’t keep an osteoarthritic knee bent for too long as this will come to affect your muscles.

Think about modifying your home, car or workplace to reduce unnecessary strain on your joints. An occupational therapist can advise you on how to protect your joints and on special equipment or gadgets that will make your daily tasks easier.

Learn to relax your muscles and get the tension out of your body. A physiotherapist or occupational therapist can advise you on relaxation techniques.

Try a different position if sex is painful.

Apply warmth to a painful joint to help ease pain and stiffness. Heat lamps are popular, but a hot-water bottle or reheatable pad are just as good. This can be helpful if you have a flare-up of pain when you’ve done a bit too much. An ice pack can also help, but don’t apply either ice or heat packs directly to your skin.

More evidence to support the use of knee braces for osteoarthritis is becoming available. Several types of brace can help to stabilise your kneecap and make it move correctly. You can buy knee braces from sports shops and chemists, but you should speak to your doctor or physiotherapist first. They may also be able to provide braces or recommend the best ones for you.

For more information, go to
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