Protect your joints while housecleaning

Small changes to how you clean can reduce the impact on your joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms such as pain, fatigue, stiffness and decreased muscle strength can make it hard to perform many daily activities. Cleaning is often one of the more troubling tasks, as it requires lots of reaching, bending and grabbing that can be hard on your joints.

Fortunately, changing the way you clean can make the job easier and less painful.

Pace yourself

Instead of devoting an entire day to housecleaning, clean just one area or room a day and focus on heavy traffic areas. Vary the tasks and the motions you use, so you don't overuse any one joint. Take frequent breaks.

Plan ahead

Being strategic with your cleaning can help minimize the time and effort you spend on each task.

  • Store duplicate cleaning supplies on each level. Store a complete set of cleaning supplies and tools on each floor. This will reduce the number of times you have to go up and down the stairs.
  • Select long-handled tools. Use mops, dustpans and brooms with long handles. Even some dusting products are available with long handles so that you don't have to stoop or stretch.
  • Take care in the laundry room. Smaller containers of concentrated detergent will be easier to lift. If you have a front-loading washer and dryer, arranging to have them raised off the floor will make them easier to access.
  • Choose a lightweight vacuum. A lightweight model will be easier on your joints. You might also want to consider a robot vacuum cleaner, which allows for hands-free cleaning.

Use good body mechanics

Protect your joints and muscles with these tips:

  • Bend your knees when picking up an item. This protects your back. Also, lift only light loads and hold them close to your body.
  • Keep your arms close to your body. This will minimize the strain on your shoulders. If possible, bring objects to the level of your waist instead of reaching up and out with your arms.
  • Vacuum carefully. Don't bend forward or move the vacuum with just your arm. Stand up straight and walk forward and back with your vacuum cleaner.
  • Avoid kneeling on both knees. Try to kneel on just one knee at a time. Use kneepads or a cushion.
  • Alternate limbs and positions. Switch between using your left and right hands and between sitting and standing. Also, alternate doing different types of motions, for example, sweeping the floor and drying the dishes.
  • Push, don't pull. Pushing items is easier on your body.

Physical activity is an excellent way to manage the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and cleaning keeps you moving. By making small changes to the way you clean, you can reap the benefits of the activity while minimizing the impact on your joints.

Sept. 21, 2023 See more In-depth