An occupational therapist’s five easy ways to improve daily activity
by Brenda Frie, MA, OTR/L CHT
Joint pain and inflammation within the hands and feet are often symptoms of lupus. The inflammatory process associated with lupus can expand the joint capsule, stretching supporting ligaments, which can decrease joint stability. It is important for anyone living with lupus to be aware of positions that protect joints from the force of everyday activities.
In my clinical practice as a hand therapist, I have found the following principles of joint protection to be helpful in reducing joint stress:
- Use the largest joint available to transfer the force of the task to a joint that is more stable. Examples: Carry your purse on your shoulder instead of around your elbow, wrist, or in your hand. Use leg strength rather than arm strength to get up from a chair.
- Use small joints in mid-position and avoid deforming force that hyperextends or pushes joints to the side to maintain joint integrity. Example: Use tools with an enlarged grip, pinch with a slight curl to the joints.
- Engage muscles as a secondary support for joints, especially if there is weight or resistance. Example: When lifting a box, grip firmly, stabilize your wrist in a straight position, and then lift with your arms.
- Work smarter through the use of tools and equipment to reduce force on joints and strength needed to do a task. Examples: Use extended lever door handles, jar and can openers. Wear solid footwear, consider inserts for joint support. Use carts, lifts, and supports to reduce the force of lifting.
- Engage in daily, gentle, full-range-of-joint motion, which stimulates movement of fluid through the body’s lymphatic system, helping maintain mobility and reduce inflammation. Examples: Walking with arm swing, Wii games, Tai Chi, Qigong.
About the Author
Brenda Frie, MA, OTR/L CHT, is an assistant professor in the Masters of Occupational Therapy program at St. Catherine University and practices as a hand therapist at Fairview Hand Center. Her research interest is self-management programming for those living with chronic disease. Brenda has developed programs to assist those living with lupus in the management of fatigue, physical activity, stress and pain.