Lessen winter’s impact on arthritis
By Mary Krueger - Douglas County Senior Coordinator
Now that winter is here, those of us who have arthritis seem to have more aches and pains. As it gets colder outside, we may not be able to exercise as much as we do in the warmer months. However, it is important to keep exercising every day.
Exercise eases arthritis pain. It increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain and helps combat fatigue.
The tendency in the winter is to be less active. The human body wasn’t meant to sit around. Long periods of sitting produce ill effects. Everybody needs to be aware of and cope with this.
One way is to keep more active indoors. Indoor malls can serve as a replacement site for outdoor walks when the weather gets chilly. Join a swimming, yoga or dancing class that will also keep you active. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring.
Lose weight for the sake of your knees. Every time you take a step, the pressure across your knees is three to four times your body weight.
We all know it’s hard to lose weight, but even losing three pounds can take about nine to 12 pounds of pressure off your knees when you walk.
Keep your aching joints warm during the winter months. Warm baths are beneficial in keeping your joints warm as well as relieving you from the stiffness and pain of arthritis.
When going outside, dress warmly. Dressing in layers helps trap body heat and helps you keep warm. Pay special attention to your head, hands and feet. Wear a hat, gloves or mittens and warm shoes with good traction.
Another trick is to put your clothes in the dryer for a few minutes before going outside. This warms them up and makes sure you start out nice and toasty.
Keep safe. Your arthritis may predispose you to falls and broken bones. Be extra careful when walking over snow and ice. Wear shoes or boots with a good grip and walk slowly, taking small, steady steps. You can also purchase an ice tip for your cane if you use one.
Get an adequate supply of calcium and Vitamin D. Drink your milk. To make Vitamin D we need sunshine, which is hard to come by in the winter months. Talk to your doctor about calcium and Vitamin D supplements.
Do weather conditions really aggravate physical pain? This has been a long standing controversy in medicine. Some studies have linked changes in temperature, humidity or barometric pressure to worsening pain from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as fibromyalgia and back pain, among others.
Scientists don’t understand all the mechanisms involved in weather-related pain, but one leading theory holds that the falling barometric pressure that frequently precedes a storm alters the pressure inside joints.
Those connections between bones, held together with tendons and ligaments, are surrounded and cushioned by sacs of fluid and trapped gasses.
I think we should all head for a dryer, warmer climate! Who’s with me? Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.