Managing daily with arthritis

When you have arthritis, joint pain and weakness can make normal activities difficult.
You might find some tasks cause pain or strain, and other activities become almost impossible. But don’t give up just yet!

Intimacy and arthritis

Sometimes the physical and emotional symptoms associated with arthritis can affect relationships, including sexual expression and enjoyment.

However, there are ways to overcome these challenges.

To learn more about how to manage this aspect of your life download the information sheet which provides general information on how to maintain sexual intimacy while living with arthritis. Further sources of information are also listed.

Useful links & resources

Joint protection

Joints affected by arthritis are usually weaker and less stable than ‘normal’ joints.

This makes them more vulnerable to damage, particularly from twisting or repetitive movements.

As soon as you find out you have arthritis, it is important to start looking after your joints. Small changes in the way you do things can greatly reduce the stress on your joints and help prevent problems becoming worse in the future.

Some ways to look after your joints:

If you carefully plan and organise your activities you can make the most of your energy. Pacing helps you to finish what you want to do without increasing your pain.

When doing tasks around the house, set a steady pace and take a break BEFORE you get tired and sore. Alternate periods of rest and activity during the day. As a rough guide, try to take a 10-15 minute rest every one and a half hours. You can also rest different joints and muscles throughout the day by regularly changing activities. For example, switch from an activity that requires standing, to one that allows you to sit so that you can rest your legs and back. Remember, don’t overdo things on ‘good days’ as it could result in pain and fatigue the following days.

It is important to listen to your body and take notice of pain. Pain can serve as a warning. Pushing through pain can make it worse and can also increase stress, fatigue and joint damage. While pain messages should always be respected, a fear of pain can stop you from living an active life and can lead to further problems. Many people will give up on an activity if it hurts. However it is better to keep doing these activities a little at a time, with plenty of rests, rather than give up altogether something which you enjoy.

Look for ways that you can use tools or your environment to help you accomplish tasks. For example, slide objects along a bench rather than lifting them, take advantage of carts or trolleys when transporting large items.

Use your strongest and largest joints and muscles to distribute weight and reduce joint stress and pain. For example, use your thigh muscles instead of your back to squat and lift an object.

Muscles and tendons are at their strongest when the joints are in straight alignment. Try to avoid or change activities that put your affected joints into unstable or awkward positions. For example, when holding objects, try to keep your wrists straight and your fingers in line with your knuckles and wrist. Check the way you hold the kettle or iron, or how you carry a shopping bag.

Simply changing the way you do an activity can save time, energy and unnecessary joint pain. For example, can you do this task while sitting rather than standing? Sit at the table when chopping vegetables for dinner rather than standing if you have sore knees, hips or feet.

Staying in the same position for long periods can lead to tired muscles and stiff joints. It is generally recommended to change positions or stretch every 20 minutes.

Always maintain good posture when sitting or standing. For example, when sitting, use a chair with a firm or supportive back rest. Try to avoid soft, ‘saggy’ couches.

Fatigue and arthritis

Fatigue is a feeling of both physical and mental tiredness.

It is often described as exhaustion or a lack of energy, and can make everyday tasks seem impossible.

Many people with arthritis experience fatigue, no matter what they have been doing or how much sleep they get. There are many possible causes of fatigue, including the disease activity, pain (which can also affect sleep), certain medicines, muscle weakness and wasting, or depression.

To learn more download the information sheet which provides general information on ways to deal with fatigue (tiredness), tips for conserving energy, and advice on making daily tasks easier. It also includes sources of further information.