Updated 07 December 2015

10 easy ways to protect your joints

Your joints take a lot of punishment. Even when you’re completely healthy, daily activity and exercise put strain on them. Here's how to protect them.


Your joints take a lot of punishment. Even when you’re completely healthy, daily activity and exercise put strain on them. But when you have arthritis, your joints become cranky and creaky, susceptible to flare-ups. Here are thirteen simple ways to get the best from your joints while minimising pain and discomfort.

Your joints are wondrous, complex configurations of sinew, bone, cartilage and fluid – tough but fragile, flexible but limited. You need to keep them moving or they’ll seize up. You need to rest them or they’ll swell. So what are your options?

  • Start with heat, end with cold: many people find that they can have an enjoyable and beneficial workout by combining warm and cold compresses to arthritic joints;
  • Start slowly: Whether you’re going for a walk or pushing weights, start gently. If your exercise involves walking the dog and it’s an energetic hound, let it run around and burn off some energy first;
  • Choose appropriate exercise: you might enjoy playing rugby, but you need to face up the fact that it’s bad for your joints. Try range-of-motion exercises such as swimming, t’ai chi, yoga, or even ballroom dancing;
  • Stick to your routine: You should do range-of-motion exercises every day, or every other day at the most. You can vary their intensity, depending on how much pain you have, but you should make a point of moving the joints to keep them flexible;
  • Wear a brace: lightweight casts and braces are very effective at restricting the movement of joints. Some people feel a little self-conscious about wearing them, but they work;
  • Get help: no one will call you a hero for carrying eight bags of shopping to the car. Use a trolley or pay someone to carry them. The same applies to transferring washing from the washing machine to the tumble drier;
  • Invest in gadgets: Replace your fancy tap handles with handles. Get fat foam sleeves to fit over your slender pens and pencils;
  • Bury your dignity: you might think you look like a crock when you walk with a cane. You don’t. You look dignified and distinguished. And it’ll ease the load on your knees;
  • Don’t rule out surgery: Having a knee or hip replacement might seem like a huge event, but these procedures are now refined and successful. People who’ve had them done find that they have great benefits;
  • Lose weight: Even a few extra kilograms will add to the strain on your joints. You needn’t be a rail-thin, but keeping your weight down or losing weight can significantly add to the mileage you’ll get out of your joints;
  • Know when to get help: Familiarise yourself with the symptoms. Know when to see a doctor, such as when your pain is accompanied by a fever, or if the pain in say, a wrist is accompanied by numbness or tingling in the fingers.
  • Listen to your body: If a joint becomes inflamed, ease off until the inflammation subsides. You can’t “work though” the pain of an inflamed joint;
  • Harness technology: qualified professionals employ a dazzling variety of pain relief techniques. Be open to suggestion, even if you haven’t tried a technique before, whether it’s ultrasound, acupuncture, TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), or biofeedback

Read more:

Knee Pain Stretches & Exercises

7 everyday things that could be damaging your joints


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Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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