Aging & Health A to Z
Lifestyle & Management
Visit the Arthritis topic for more information on osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
Diet and Physical Activity
If you are overweight or obese, you are putting enormous extra stress on weight-bearing joints such as your spine, hips, knees, ankles, and feet. Losing weight will reduce future damage to these joints, improve your flexibility, and make it easier to move and carry out daily functions. Ask your healthcare provider to refer you to a licensed dietitian or nutritionist.
A regular physical activity routine developed for you personally by a physical therapist should become part of your daily routine - not just for the rehabilitation period, but for life. Frequent activity can help keep your joints flexible, muscles strong, and blood circulation healthy. Swimming or water aerobics is particularly helpful if your weight-bearing joints are damaged because the buoyancy of the water reduces the impact on those joints.
If you experience difficulty carrying out daily functions, including walking, sitting comfortably, or doing your daily chores, a wide range of aids and devices are available to make your life easier and safer. A physical therapist can show you how to properly use a cane or walker to help get you out and about more easily. If you have a problem with a hip or knee, a cane should be used on your good side, to help shift weight away from your weak joint.
Home devices and modifications can make a big difference to your quality of life. For example, you may benefit from raised toilet seats or modifications of other seating. Many devices are available from hardware stores and medical supply shops:
- “reachers,” easy-grip utensils, electric can openers
- zipper and buttoning aids
- long-handled shoe horns and “sock-aids”
- doorknob and faucet adapters
- modified telephones
- writing aids
- specialty gardening tools
- key turners
An occupational therapist will be able to help you find the devices you need and show you how to use them properly.
Severe joint problems can make it hard to take care of yourself and get through your daily routine. Walking and sitting may become difficult or even impossible without help, especially for older people. These problems, along with the chronic pain related to joint problems, put you at higher risk for balance difficulties, and increase your risk of falls and fractures. Getting your pain under control and taking your rehabilitation and physical activity routine seriously will reduce your disabilities and your risk of an injury from a fall.
Updated: April 2017
Posted: March 2012