How to prevent stiffness in joints

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

Preventing stiffness in joints sometimes requires lifestyle modification.

Joint pain and stiffness may improve with heat therapy, which includes:

Taking warm showers or baths after long periods of sitting or sleeping.

Soaking hand joints in warm wax baths.

Sleeping under a warm electric blanket.

Use assistive devices to reduce strain on the joints, such as special kitchen tools or door knobs.

Use splints, canes, or walkers to reduce pain and improve function and ambulation.

Keep moving to maintain muscle strength, flexibility, and overall health.

Physical therapy may be recommended by the physician.

Exercise can reduce pain and improve function in people with arthritis. Exercise for arthritis takes three forms—stretching, strengthening, and conditioning. Specific joint problems may dictate what type of exercise will help the most. For example:

Swimming is a good conditioning exercise for people with joint problems in the lower extremities such as the knees, ankles, or feet.

Bicycling and walking are good conditioning exercises if the joint problems are not in the lower extremities.

Use a kitchen timer as a reminder to stretch every 30 minutes when working on a hobby or task for long periods of time.

To get at hard-to-reach objects on the top shelf or to pick up dropped items without bending, try a Reacher. The pistol grip allows for a full, four-finger trigger making it easier to grasp any object. The secure lock handles slightly heavier objects.

Consider long handled tools, like the comb, back scrubber and dressing stick. These items alleviate uncomfortable stretching that some tasks require.

Try Velcro Button Tabs as an alternative to buttons. These fasteners provide easy closure by pressing the Velcro tapes together. They fit most standard button holes and are machine washable.

If you have a lot of morning stiffness and take an anti inflammatory medication, try taking it in the evening with your meal instead of the morning.

If a certain activity is going to bring on stiffness afterwards (eg. tennis), take a small dose of anti inflammatory medication before playing.

As with any medication change though, always check with your physician before you decide to make these changes.

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