Arthritis is an extremely common condition in which a patient’s joints become inflamed and painful, affecting any joint from the hands and elbows to the hips, knees, and ankles. Arthritis can be a difficult condition to live with all year round, but for many patients, wintertime becomes especially troublesome, as stiff joints in low temperatures exacerbate their usual symptoms of chronic pain.
At OAA Orthopedic Specialists, we want our patients with arthritis to know there are measures they can take to feel comfortable all year round, even during those times when their symptoms may flare up the most. Here are four ways you can alleviate arthritis pain this chilly season:
Don’t Take On Chores Alone
If you live with arthritis, it’s important that you maintain activity in your life to keep your joints from becoming stiff. However, certain tasks – including some of the most common chores you may be performing during winter – may do more harm than good when it comes to your joints. High-impact activities, including snow shoveling and leaf raking, can actually cause unnecessary pain or even long-term damage by putting too much strain on your affected joint or joints. This winter season, you might consider reaching out to a friend, family member, or neighbor for assistance. It’s worth it to protect your body.
Practice Some Gentle Exercise
If you’re looking for ways to stay active without doing harm to your joints or causing a flare-up, try performing some low-impact exercises while staying warm inside. Practicing yoga(opens in a new tab) is an excellent way for those with arthritis to stay fit; starting out with simple, gentle steps, you can build strength and flexibility while avoiding any poses that put too much weight on your joints. If you’re someone whose arthritis affects their hands and fingers, gentle hand stretches are also a great way to improve your mobility while at home keeping nice and warm.
Use Warming Agents Indoors
It may sound obvious, but keeping warm is key for alleviating symptoms of an arthritis flare-up that are triggered by the cold, and that’s as true indoors as it is outdoors. If you’re experiencing stiff joints as a result of low temperatures, warming agents such as heating pads can be extremely helpful – just be sure not to use the pad directly on your skin. We recommend utilizing a barrier, such as a towel or blanket, to ensure that the temperature is appropriate and will not irritate or burn your skin. If you have access to an electric blanket, this can also be helpful in keeping warm, but be careful to store them safely(opens in a new tab) so they don’t become a hazard.
Keep Warm When Outside
Of course, you can’t stay inside forever, even during the winter chill. When you’re trying to avoid triggering your arthritis, it’s advisable to treat any outing as a potential moment for your pain to flare up. It’s easier to leave the house unprepared than you may think – even a quick trip to the mailbox or the car could potentially leave you with stiff joints and regret. When preparing to step outside, layering is key: first, you should have a pair of thermal undergarments under your regular clothes, and a hat and gloves to protect your extremities. If your arthritis is an obstacle to wearing gloves, mittens are a perfectly acceptable alternative.
By following these tips, you can keep yourself comfortable and protect your joints all winter long. That said, if arthritis pain is a constant struggle that affects your quality of life, it may be time to see an arthritis specialist near you. At OAA, the board-certified, fellowship-trained team at our Rheumatology Institute is highly-trained and ready to help you live life to the fullest.
Our Pain Management team is proud to have won Morning Call’s Reader’s Choice Best Pain Management(opens in a new tab) in 2021. If you’re ready to take the first steps on your road to recovery in the new year, schedule your appointment with OAA today or call (610) 973-6200 for more information.