Hesperian Health Guides
How to Care for Painful Joints
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|1. REST THE JOINTS
The more painful the joint, the more it needs rest. Some movement is important, but no forceful exercise or heavy use of the joint.
|If joints are swollen, it helps to keep them lifted up.|
2. HEAT AND COLDApplying heat (see side box) or cold to the joint often reduces pain and makes motion easier. For cold, use packs of ice wrapped in a cloth or towel for 10 or 15 minutes. Experiment to see which works better. Usually cold works better on hot, inflamed joints and heat on sore, stiff joints.
Hot wax can be used instead of hot water. Some specialists say that it does not do more good than hot water, but persons with arthritis find it very soothing.
|Heat beeswax or paraffin until it just melts (but not too hot—test it first on a finger).||Dip the hand or painful joints into the hot wax.||Take it out. The wax will quickly harden.|
|When it cools, dip it in again.|
Usually aspirin or ibuprofen work best, because they reduce both pain and inflammation. See doses and precautions.
Note: For severe pain, splints to prevent motion help reduce pain and prevent contractures.
|4. RANGE-OF-MOTION (ROM) EXERCISES
It is important to move the joints through their full range of motion at least twice a day (especially if splints are used). If it hurts, apply heat or cold first, and move them very slowly. Do not force! (See Chapter 16 and Chapter 42.)
|5. EXERCISE WITHOUT MOTION
These are exercises to strengthen muscles without bending the painful joints. For example, a child with a painful knee can keep her thighs strong by tightening her thigh muscles while her leg is straight. She should hold the muscles tight until they get tired and begin to tremble. This will strengthen them and keep them strong. (See Exercises Without Motion and Different Exercises for Different Needs.)
Tighten this muscle as much as you can!
|6. CONTINUE DAILY ACTIVITIES
With most joint pain, it is important that the child remain fairly active. She should try to continue with all daily activities that do not strain or overwork the painful joints. Moderate activity is usually recommended (except for acute infections or injuries, when complete rest may be needed for several days).