For many, winter conjures up idyllic images – snowfall, warm drinks by the fire, and knitted sweaters. But if you’re managing arthritis, the cold months can make joint pain worse. Though the season’s chill can feel daunting, there are strategies to ease arthritis during winter. With a few adjustments, you can enjoy the snowy days ahead, joint pain-free, while still staying active.
Keep Warm to Soothe Aching Joints
Frigid temperatures tend to make aches in hands, knees, hips, and other joints feel more intense. To help ease the impact, focus on keeping your joints warm. Bundle up in layers of comfortable clothing to stay warm, like wool sweaters, insulating socks, and even mittens or gloves. Cover up painful hand joints with cozy, wool-blend gloves to prevent chilliness from aggravating symptoms.
Don’t forget about accessories – wrap a scarf around your neck and pop on a warm hat. The goal is to keep your joints warm and snug. With some preparation and weather-appropriate attire, you can keep your joints content and stylishly bundled up. Approach the cold weather prepared, and you’ll be ready to tackle the winter chill.
Apply Moist Heat
For easing joint aches, applying moist heat is a proven strategy. Options like warm showers or baths introduce soothing warmth to painful areas. A hot water bottle can be your best friend too. Simply fill the bottle with moderately hot water and apply it to your stiff, inflamed joints. The warmth relaxes muscles and makes it easier to drift off to sleep when joint pain keeps you awake too.
When using heat on sensitive areas, test the temperature first by placing your hand on the source briefly. Aim for a tolerable level of heat. Keep the warmth focused on the affected joint for 15-20 minutes at a time, repeating a few times daily as needed. The moist heat specifically helps loosen stiffness and improve mobility. With trial and error, heat therapy can become a go-to for finding joint relief.
Stay Hydrated for Joint Health
Keep sipping water, not just for your overall health but for your joints. Drinking water helps with stiffness by stimulating the production of synovial fluid, supporting cartilage regeneration and lubrication of joints, and improving joint health. Keeping your joints lubricated is essential for healthy and pain-free movement.
Furthermore, when the cartilage is healthy and strong, it acts as a cushion for the bones. This reduces friction at the joints, aiding joint health and mobility. Therefore, drinking enough water can improve joint health and reduce pain and stiffness. Monitor your urine color as a marker of hydration. If it’s darker than pale straw in color, you need to drink more.
Stay Active and Manage Your Weight
Exercise helps limit pain, improve joint motion, boost energy levels, and strengthen the muscles that support your joints. Keeping active also helps maintain a healthy weight, so you place less pressure on your joints. Break up periods of sitting by getting up and moving around as often as you can. If you work at home, invest in a standing desk or treadmill desk so you don’t have to sit all day.
You should have a regular exercise plan that doesn’t worsen joint pain. Staying active is important when you have arthritis. It may be painful to exercise sometimes, so adapt your workouts accordingly. A few ways regular exercise helps:
- It keeps your joints flexible and strong. The more you move, the easier it gets to move. This makes everyday tasks less tiring.
- It keeps you at a healthy weight. Extra weight strains your joints. Shedding even a few pounds makes a big difference.
- It reduces joint swelling and stiffness. Moving improves blood flow and circulation, so your joints hurt less.
- It’s fantastic for your heart and mood too. You get those feel-good endorphins, which is great for beating stress and anxiety.
- The key is finding exercises you enjoy and can stick with long-term. Start slow and be patient. Over time you’ll notice moving gets easier, you have more energy, and you just feel better overall. Don’t let arthritis stop you from staying active and improving your health. Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise routine if you have severe arthritis.
The Importance of Stretching
Another way to manage achy joints in the winter is to stretch as part of your daily routine. Stretching improves the range of motion and flexibility while reducing pain and tension in the muscles and joints. Additionally, stretching boosts circulation to your muscles and joints, which helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and reduces pain and stiffness.
When stretching, perform the stretches slowly and gently, and avoid stretching beyond the point of discomfort. Be consistent. Start the day with a stretching session and repeat it several times throughout the day for maximum benefits. If you sit a lot, do hip flexor stretches to reduce the hip tightness that inevitably builds up when you sit too long.
Conclusion: Manage Your Joint Health
Even for people without chronic health conditions, winter’s frigid temperatures can be challenging. But if you have arthritis, the cold months are even more of a challenge. But with the right preparation, you can sail through the winter without sacrificing your quality of life. Don’t resign yourself to being immobilized by pain – instead, arm yourself with these practical joint relief techniques. Work with your healthcare provider to determine safe ways to keep your body mobile. With professional guidance, staying active will help support healthy joint function.
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- Physical Activity for Arthritis. Published 2023. Accessed January 7, 2023. cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/physical-activity-overview.html
- How do exercise and arthritis fit together? Mayo Clinic. Published 2023. Accessed January 7, 2023. mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/arthritis/in-depth/arthritis/art-20047971.
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