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Joint Protection Dos and Don’ts

You want your joints to last a lifetime. To keep them in good shape, you need to take care of them now.

To protect your joints, practice healthy lifestyle habits. Use your joints the right way and guard them against damage from rheumatoid arthritis.

These tips can help you have healthier joints even with RA now, and for years to come.

Lose Weight If You Need To

One of the kindest things you can do for your joints is not to carry too much body weight. If you have rheumatoid arthritis in your hips, knees, or feet, excess weight can put more stress on your joints. A 2007 study showed that those extra pounds can make it harder to bring RA into remission.

Stay Active

Regular exercise helps your joints work like they should, eases stiffness, and relieves fatigue. It strengthens the muscles that support your joints. It can also help hold off diabetes and heart disease, which often go along with RA.

Be careful, though. Too much exercise or the wrong type can be bad for you if your joints are inflamed or damaged. Do things that put the least amount of body weight on your joints, like swimming or other water exercise, stationary cycling, and light weight lifting. Your doctor or physical therapist can help design a program that's right for you.

Stop Smoking

Research in recent years shows that smoking makes you more likely to get rheumatoid arthritis. If you already have RA, smoking can make it harder to treat, which could mean more joint damage. A Swedish study found that smokers with RA were less likely to respond to two common RA treatments -- methotrexate and certain biologics -- than RA patients who didn't smoke.

Choose Tools That Give Joints a Rest

Special tools or assistive devices can help take the stress off damaged joints and protect them from injury or further harm. For example, using a cane on the opposite side of a knee or hip joint with RA can take 20% to 30% of the weight off and make you more stable.

Pens, pencils, and toothbrush handles with thick handles spare your hand joints. Tools made to reach help cut stress on your shoulders when you reach for items on high shelves.

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