Life hacks: Top tips for daily living with arthritis

15 August 2019
Colette, in her living room, stretching her back.

Some of us feel bright eyed and raring to go in the morning, while others are better in the afternoon. Read our advice to help you manage your arthritis. We’d love to hear your life hacks, let us know on Twitter and Facebook.

Getting up gently

Our joints are at their stiffest after a night’s rest, so treat them with kindness.

Mr Panos Gikas, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at The Lister Hospital and The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, advises some gentle stretches such as raising your arms and legs while you are still in bed.

“Try stretching each affected joint, holding the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, and repeating two to three times, while taking care not to overstretch,” he says.

Warming up

Having a warm bath or shower can be beneficial at any time of day but is especially good in the morning.

“The warm water will help blood to flow more easily to the surface of the skin and soothe painful joints,” explains occupational therapist, Julie Jennings at HSL Chair Jennings.

Hilary Cook has been teaching the Alexander Technique for 19 years and says it’s helped her to manage her arthritis.

“Rub your bare feet on the carpet to warm up your soles. Then rub your hands all over your body, paying attention to your face, scalp, back of neck, shoulder blades and the rest of your back, if you can reach. Let your head hang down and slowly come up. It feels amazing and really helps you to get going,” she says.

Read more hints and tips – living with arthritis.

Taking a walk

Keeping active is important, as it will strengthen your muscles and increase their suppleness.

Gentle exercise, such as walking or swimming, can be hugely beneficial. Activities such as housework and gardening can be a good workout, too, but are best done once your joints aren’t stiff.

Be careful not to overdo it and take regular breaks.

“Our bodies are not made to sit for long periods of time, so make sure you move as much as possible,” says Cook.

“Use the whole body to perform tasks to help protect it. For example, when vacuuming and ironing, don’t just use your arms – use your legs to step into the movement, if you can.”

Learn more – your questions about walking.

Having a break

How we use our bodies through the day can really affect the pain we feel in the evening, but posture can often be the last thing on our minds.

“The main thing to remember is to avoid becoming too slumped or slouched,” says Tim Allardyce, clinical director at Surrey Physio.

“If you can get into the habit of lifting your chin and keeping your head straight, you’ll have much better posture.” If your job requires long spells in front of a computer, it’s important to take regular screen breaks.

“Every 20 minutes get up for a five-minute walk to get you out of that flexed position,” he advises.

Stretching out

Travelling often involves sitting for lengthy periods. Allardyce recommends doing some gentle exercises while sat down, to prevent joints from getting stiff.

“Rotate your feet in an anticlockwise and then a clockwise direction. Straighten and bend your knee to increase your range of motion, then try lifting your knee towards the ceiling. Repeat each exercise 10 times on each side.”

Find out more about exercising with arthritis.

Winding down

By the evenings, our bodies are tired, so it can be tempting to collapse into a chair and not move for ages. But this can be detrimental and cause tired joints to stiffen up.

The Alexander Technique semi-supine position can be used at any time of the day, and many people find it helps their body.

“If you can, lie on the floor – but, if that is too challenging, lying on a bed will suffice,”

Hilary Cook

“Put a book or two under your head and slowly lie down, keeping your knees bent, legs hip-distance apart, with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your hips and breathe slowly, allowing your body and spine to release the tension built up over the day.”

Preparing for bed

Pain and stiffness can stop us getting a good night’s sleep.

“I recommend heat therapy at night before bed, such as a soak in the bath or using a heat pad for 15 minutes,” says Panos Gikas. “This should make it a little easier and more comfortable to fall asleep.”

This article is from our Autumn edition of Inspire magazine. Read it in full here.

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