By Ginny Rieger
Old Man Winter has arrived, and his old friend Arthur Ritis is less than pleased to see him! One of the things therapists hear a lot about in the colder months is how much our patients’ joints ache, especially those with moderate to severe arthritis. There is not a lot of empirical evidence to support weather change as a cause of joint pain, but it’s not uncommon for people with arthritis to say they can tell the weather is changing because their joint pain increases. If Old Man Winter has your joints angry, try these tips to ease your pain in the colder months!
- Start your day with heat! Use a heating pad, heated blanket, warm bath, or warm shower to increase your joints’ mobility and decrease your pain before you go about your daily activities. If you have the room and the budget, an infrared sauna is another awesome way to add a little heat to your day!
- Avoid prolonged gripping – such as carrying heavy holiday grocery and gift bags. Take breaks, and tackle the task in short bites, or make more trips to carry in the bags!
- Keep moving, but keep it pain-free. Consider walking inside a shopping mall, riding a stationary bike at a comfortable speed, or swimming in a warm, indoor pool for some low-impact exercise during the winter months. If regular exercise causes extra pain in the winter, your body is telling you to lessen the intensity of your activity.
- Layer up!! Layer your clothing when going outdoors. Make sure to cover all arthritis-prone joints (knees, fingers). Wear gloves or mittens, and add Hot Hands to gloves and shoes if you will be outside for prolonged periods of time!
- Use tools such as windshield screens instead of scraping ice off car windshields and ask for help shoveling snow. These activities are tough on painful joints and can be more painful in the cold weather months.
- Invest in arthritic gloves and light compression garments for knees, ankles, or elbows. These provide compression and warmth to aching joints and can help support the joint for improved function. Chemically activated hot packs such as Hot Hands for hands and feet can be helpful too.
- Prevent falls. Wear appropriate footwear with traction, and keep an eye out for slick surfaces that could cause you to fall and injure yourself. Using ice picks on your cane or walking sticks can also be a great way to add traction!
- Go see your physical or occupational therapist! Therapists have a plethora of good information and can help work on the strength and stability of painful joints, address pain, and help modify activities so you can weather the weather as functionally as possible!