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Coping With Arthritis

Occupational therapy can keep pain at bay, expert says

FRIDAY, Oct. 17, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Arthritis, which affects about 70 million Americans, is a leading cause of disability in the United States.

While pain and stiffness caused by arthritis can be relieved by medications, occupational therapy helps people with arthritis regain their mobility and independence. It achieves this by changing any potentially harmful habits and by protecting the joints while people do daily activities.

One aspect of occupational therapy involves teaching people with arthritis proper joint protection techniques, which reduce stress on joints affected by arthritis.

Carole Dodge, an occupational therapist at the University of Michigan Health System offers the following joint protection principles:

  • Use the largest and strongest joint possible to do a task, such as the shoulder and hip to shut a door.
  • Avoid beginning an activity that cannot be stopped immediately if it proves to be exhausting or beyond ability to complete.
  • Use good posture.
  • Control weight to reduce stress on joints.
  • Use tools with enlarged grips.
  • Respect your pain. Stop if activities such as grasping, bending or reaching cause you pain. Try to think of alternative methods that will help protect your joints and not cause you pain.

Dodge also offers advice on how people with arthritis can conserve energy and decrease fatigue:

  • Plan and schedule daily tasks and activities, spreading out heavy and light tasks throughout the day.
  • Avoid rushing.
  • Organize to eliminate unnecessary tasks such as reaching or carrying. For example, slide pots and pans from oven to sink or use a cart to clear the dinner table.
  • Try to sit when doing chores such as ironing and washing dishes.
  • Rest before you feel fatigue. That way, you'll need less time to fully recuperate.
  • Use plastic or aluminum bowls and pans instead of cast iron or ceramic ones.
  • Use electric appliances.
  • Use large-handled brushes, utensils or pens so you don't have to tightly grasp objects.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about arthritis.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, October 2003
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