“It is going to rain or snow, I can feel it in my joints,” is a very common phrase I hear among my patients with arthritis. While having arthritis can make you an accurate predictor of the weather, especially as the cold approaches, winter can be a tough time of year for those with chronic arthritic symptoms. If you do not have the luxury of being a snow bird and escaping to somewhere warm during these long winter months, here are some tips for managing arthritis during the cold weather.
- Stay active. In the winter months, people tend to become more sedentary. Being less active can lead to more joint stiffness and muscle tightness. If the weather is too treacherous to venture outside, seek out activities you can do in your own home. A simple pair of free weights or an exercise ball can provide many different exercise options. If you live in a building, use the hallways as a walking path, or drive to a local indoor mall where you’ll find miles of indoor space to walk.
- Avoid strenuous activity. Although it is important to stay active, you don’t want to do anything too strenuous like shoveling snow. If you must shovel snow, push the snow aside instead of trying to lift it with a shovel. And remember to always observe good body mechanics to help protect your back and all of your joints.
- Stay warm when outdoors. Make sure to bundle up to protect your joints from the cold. Hands and feet are especially vulnerable to the cold weather. Prevent your feet from getting wet by wearing socks and waterproof boots. Choose clothing that is breathable and wicks away moisture from your skin.
- Wear proper shoe wear. Arthritis in your lower joints diminishes your balance receptors, putting you at a greater risk for falling. Make sure you arm yourself with proper shoes that are very sturdy and offer good stability, especially if it is icy outside. You may even consider some supportive slippers when indoors to give your joints some extra cushioning.
- Take a warm bath. The warmth will feel good to your joints and will help to loosen them up. You can do some simple stretching exercises in the bath as well; just make sure you are sitting to prevent slipping or falling. You may even look into a local community center that offers a warm water pool for additional exercise.
- Maintain your healthy diet. During the winter months, we crave more comfort foods that tend to be heavier and not as healthy. Any excess weight can put increased stress on your joints, making arthritis symptoms worse.
- Take advantage of the beautiful sunny winter days. The sun helps provide our Vitamin D, which is very important for our bone health. Just 10 minutes of sunshine will help your overall health. It may even help your mental well-being and keep you feeling positive and energetic all winter.
If you follow some of these tips and your symptoms still become too unbearable during the cold winter months, talk to your doctor about other options. And just remember, before you know it spring and summer will be right around the corner!