By Dr. Traci Thompson Ferguson
Arthritis can affect people throughout the year, however the winter months can often bring a special challenge to sufferers, as the cold and damp weather may increase stiffness to joints and cause greater pain than normal.
Fortunately, there are several things that you can do when the weather turns cold to decrease the joint stiffness caused during these frigid months.
Dressing warmly is key.
Pay special attention to your head, hands and feet, as the majority of the heat your joints need is lost from the body’s extremities.
The cold and damp weather can also cause you to change your exercise plans, as we have a natural instinct during the winter to hibernate. However, a lack of physical activity can cause joints to become stiff.
Remember, exercise can ease arthritis pain.
It also increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint stiffness and helps combat fatigue.
To manage arthritic conditions during the colder months, you should plan physical activities that are easy to do during the winter, such as:
- Walking indoors at a shopping mall or other larger, heated facilities
- Household chores, like vacuuming
- Swimming at an indoor pool
- Using the stairs instead of the elevator
- Stretching or doing light exercises while watching TV
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Anything that keeps you moving works!
So, when your joints start to feel the effect of the chilly weather, put on your warm clothing and plan to get active…It could truly improve your life!
Traci Thompson Ferguson, MD, is the chief medical director of medical management for WellCare Health Plans.