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Protect Your Hand and Wrist Joints

Not doing any activity at all can cause you to feel more stiff and to lose muscle strength. Weak muscles and stiff joints make it very hard for you to do regular work at home or at the job. On the other hand, doing too much can aggravate your arthritis. Learn to balance rest and work.

Slide or wheel an object, instead of lifting.

  • Slide a pan or heavy dish along the countertop to the stove or sink. Use a dish towel under a heavy object for ease in sliding pans and casseroles.
  • Be sure vacuum sweeper wheels are smoothly-rolling.
  • Use a tea cart to move food, appliances, and cookware around the kitchen. Cleaning materials can be moved around the house in the same way. The cart also may be used to "pick up" after family members and to deliver laundry.

Use a long, sweeping motion to maintain or improve shoulder, elbow or wrist motion.

  • Use large circular motions when dusting and washing windows to aid shoulder motion.
  • Use long strokes when ironing.
  • When vacuuming, use long forward thrusts of the vacuum before bringing it close to the body. Fully open and then bend your arm.
  • Rake leaves by using long strokes and by pulling the rake close to the body after each stroke.
  • If you must cut wood, straighten your arm as much as possible with each stroke when sawing.
  • When painting, use long, up and down motions of the shoulder and side to side strokes, keeping the shoulder steady and using the elbow.

Avoid tight grasping or twisting motions with your hands and activities that push your fingers toward your little finger.

  • Wring out rags and cloths by wrapping the article around a faucet and twisting it using wrist motion. Or, use a sponge and push out excess water with the palm of your hand.
  • Open a jar by putting a small sponge or wet towel under the jar to prevent sliding. Put your palm on the lid. Turn your arm at the shoulder to open the jar. Or, use a jar opener. Several types are available.
  • Build up handles on utensils, pencils, knives, tools etc.
  • Use scissors to open bags and packages. Consider electric scissors.
  • Cut foods carefully holding the knife like a dagger with the handle of the knife parallel to your knuckles and pull. Always use a sharp knife or an electric knife.

Change positions often to avoid one position for a long period of time.

  • Prop a book or paper on a book rest when reading instead of holding it while reading. This leaves your hands and arms free and able to avoid fatigue.
  • Do tasks that repeat the same motion, such as vacuuming, cleaning windows, and ironing, etc., for short periods of time.
  • Allow your hands to rest frequently when doing activities requiring a prolonged grip, such as ironing, paring vegetables and cutting meat. (Use a spike board to hold the vegetables and the meat.)
  • Some sewing, knitting and crocheting jobs can be harmful to your hands since you hold the same position for a long period of time with your hand bent toward your littler finger. Limit the amount of time you do these activities.
  • When writing, stop occasionally to relax your grip on the pen.
  • Use a computer instead of handwriting as it is less stressful on your fingers.

Use stronger muscles and larger joints for jobs.

  • Instead of tightly gripping the sides of heavy items like trays, grocery bags, and milk containers with your fingers; carry them with the flat of your hand or in your arms.
  • Carry a purse on your forearm or on your shoulder, not in your fingers.
  • Lift plates, bowls, and baking pans etc., by slipping the palms of both hands under the items and lifting. Use wrist muscles (or splints) to lift.
  • Use oven mitts for hot items.
  • Lift sauce pans by gripping the handle with one hand and supporting the other side of the pan with the palm of the other hand, or by gripping the sauce pan around the sides of the pan with both hands. It is preferable to slide these objects rather than lift them.
  • Hold a cup or glass between the palms of both hands, or use a cup with a large handle that you can slide all your fingers through. If you are drinking a hot liquid, be sure to use an insulated cup.
  • Use the crook of your elbow to steady a mixing bowl.
  • Use the weight of your forearm instead of the pressure of your fingers to steady writing paper, or other objects.

Consider using equipment to aid you when needed.

  • Build up handles on utensils and equipment. elax your grip by making handles larger on frequently used items. Wrap a cloth or a piece of foam around the handle and secure it with a rubber band or tape.
  • Use levers on door handles or faucets. This allows you to open or turn them more easily as you use the palm of your hand to push.
  • Use lightweight kitchen pans, plates, bowls, cups, mugs, etc.
  • Use a wheeled tea cart in the kitchen or around your home. For frequently needed items, use a lazy susan on your counter, on the first shelf of your cabinet, or on your table.
  • Use a wire brush scourer with a handle instead of regular scouring pad when cleaning pots.
  • Use a spike board to hold vegetables, meats and fruits.
  • Use a letter opener for mail.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted March 2011

Contact Information

Carl J. Shapiro Department of Orthopaedics
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215