Occupational Therapy Clinic - Article #1
Principles of Joint Protection, Work Simplification and Energy Conservation
Joint protection, work simplification and energy conservation are good principles for everyone to practice, but may be especially beneficial as people become older. Observing the following principles can lead to a more productive, pain free life.
1. Some established joint protection principles are:
- Slide heavy items rather than lifting.
- Carry items close to your body to lessen force applied to your joints.
- Use two arms or hands in lifting items. Even holding a coffee cup with two fingers can cause increased joint irritation, pain and deformity.
- When lifting avoid putting too much stress on small joints, use palms before fingers, forearms before palms. (Commissaries and grocery stores may still offer paper bags upon request which can be carried on the palms and forearms thus reducing strain on the digit joints of the hands. The Fort Polk commissary has had a policy of providing paper bags to those in need. Additionally, our commissary does allow patrons to bring and reuse their own clean bags or sacks.)
- Lift with your back straight and knees bent. Pivot with your feet, don't twist your back.
- Avoid holding joints in the same position for too long.
- Avoid propping your head up on the back of your hands.
- Respect pain. If joints are irritated rest, but don't stop moving altogether.
- Wring out wash cloths using both hands with the cloth wrapped around the spigot.
- Hold pots, pans, dishes etc. with both hands, use a potholder underneath to take pressure off the hand holding the handle.
2. Optimize your environment to simplify your work:
- Keep frequently used items within easy access of area used in.
- Store infrequently used items.
- Use lighter cookware.
- Soak dishes awhile before washing.
- Consider installing long handles for faucets and doorknobs.
- Fix leaky faucets to avoid having to use hands forcefully to shut off the water.
- Use jar openers that increase the surface area of pressure applied to your palms, never just use your fingers.
- Super size handles. Studies have shown that larger handles on hand held items reduce the force applied to hands.
- Use electrical appliances, tools and equipment in place of manually operated ones.
- Keep knives, saws and other cutting tools sharp.
- Use smaller, lighter containers to carry items in.
- Use wheelbarrows, dollies, pulleys, comealongs, or other assistive devices to decrease the force required in moving items.
3. Energy conservation can allow you to do more work with less wear and tear.
- Plan your heavy physical activities for the day, week, month etc.
- Alternate heavy tasks with lighter tasks.
- Divide tasks between you and your spouse. Make it a family activity. Have your children or grandchildren work with you on the more labor-intensive activities.
- Don't try to do all the "honey do's" at once, you may succeed, but you probably will regret your body's response after.
The above article was written by CPT Jeffrey P. Nelson, Occupational Therapist, Bayne Jones Army Community Hospital (BJACH). Who reminds you that the BJACH Occupational Therapy Clinic continues to work with military beneficiaries to assist them in leading the most productive self-sufficient lives possible.