By Bisa Dobson, RMT
If you’re an arthritis sufferer it’s likely you felt the cold weather coming on well before it got here. Though there is relatively little research on the subject, most doctors agree that frigid temperatures tends to exacerbate the pain and stiffness in their arthritis patients feel in their joints. While that is pretty bleak news for anyone whose arthritis symptoms take a turn for the worse when the mercury drops below zero, there's no need to fret. You see, we’ve got 7 easy tips to help you survive, and (with any luck) even thrive, this winter.
‘Tis the season for Layers: Bundle up in multiple layers of clothing to protect your body's tissues and reduce the effect of rapid temperature changes on your joints. Your winter gear should include: good waterproof boots; a warm full-length jacket or coat; sweaters, sweatshirts, and turtlenecks; sweatpants and long pants; as well as thermal undergarments. Finally, always, Always, ALWAYS wear a hat, scarf, and gloves or mittens when going outside.
Eat Well. Choosing a nutritious foods and having a balanced diet are good ways to boost your immune system and encourage healing. Ditch the junk food and indulge in plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish, unsalted nuts and seeds, and whole grains instead. In contrast, it’s best to avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, because they have drying effects on the cartilage found in your joints. Ensure your body stays hydrated by drinking plenty of water, healthy unsweetened juices and coconut water.
Get Physical…Indoors: While some may argue that a moderate amount of snow shovelling is good exercise, allowing your body to get cold is an absolute no-no if you want to keep your arthritis symptoms in check this winter. So avoid dashing outside to get the mail or quick trips to the convenience story without donning proper outerwear. Also, when cabin fever starts to set in and you need some exercise head to your local mall for a walk. If walking isn't your thing, try other low-impact activities like water aerobics, dancing or a gentle yoga class. Though it seems counter intuitive when you’re experiencing pain, keeping your body moving will definitely ease the stiffness in your muscles and joints.
To see more videos with great exercises to combat arthritis pain this winter and beyond visit Kim McNeil, Certified Yoga Instructor & Arthritis Specialist's YouTube page.
Get Lots of R & R. Never underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep. In addition to restoring your energy so you can better manage pain, research indicates that people who have six or fewer hours of sleep a night suffer from more inflammation – which aggravates arthritis symptoms – due to higher levels of inflammatory proteins in their blood stream. Moreover, having a therapeutic massage treatment can reduce your symptoms and improve your mood. Ask your therapist about using ice packs to reduce inflammation and/or paraffin wax treatments, to warm and soften your hands and feet during treatments.
Keep it Hot, Hot, Hot. Choosing to save your pennies by lowering the thermostat is not a good option for arthritis patients, as your joints and muscles are likely to pay for it dearly in the long run. So keep room temperatures at a comfortably warm setting while you’re at home. If cost saving is a concern, consider using a programmable thermostat that you can set to a lower temperature during the hours you’re at work, and adjusts to a higher one right before you come home. For added warmth use an electric blanket while you sleep, or heating pads to tend to more localized areas that become stiff and painful while at rest.
Keep a Pain Diary. Track your arthritis symptoms on a daily basis. Record your level of pain at different times of day, as well as how you're feeling in general, your mood and what activities you can and cannot do. It’s also important to keep a record of the medications you take each day and everything you eat. Be sure to have your diary on hand every time your see your doctor, because a having a well informed physician = more effective treatments and prescriptions.