Winter’s frigid temps can do more than nip at your nose. For people living with joint pain, freezing temperatures, combined with low barometric pressure and precipitation, only increase the discomfort.
There are ways to effectively curb the intensity of achy, stiff joints and help to make winter’s chill more bearable. Remember, spring will come again, but in the meantime try these sensible suggestions:
- Keep an eye on the scale. Spending hours snuggled indoors is enjoyable, but your joints may pay the price. Inactivity can lead to weight gain, which puts added stress on already painful joints, like the knees. Orthopedic surgeon Timothy Ekpo, D.O., says, “The saying ‘no pain, no gain’ is actually reversed for joint pain sufferers. It’s ‘no gain, no pain,’ or at least less of it. Even a weight gain of as little as five pounds can impact the degree of discomfort and stress on the joints.”
- Keep moving. Inactivity leads to decreased range of motion and even more joint pain. Choosing to remain active through the winter months promotes better joint function and mobility, not to mention a brighter outlook. Consider safe options for walking outdoors or even cross country skiing, with your doctor’s approval. If you prefer to exercise indoors, try the treadmill or exercise bike. Doing laps in a warm pool comforts your joints, keeps you moving and feels soothing too. Daily stretching exercises can stall off joint stiffness. Try the gentle motions of tai chi or extending yourself with yoga. Regular exercise will keep your weight in check too.
- Keep warm. Frigid air can be quite a shock to the body, especially your joints. Whether you’re going for a walk or simply running errands, it is important to dress in layers. Consider wearing thermal underwear and extra socks. Protect your knees by wearing tights or leggings, and your wrist joints and hands with insulated gloves. Don’t forget supportive shoes or boots with good tread to protect against falls. It takes extra effort to layer on those layers, but your joints and surrounding ligaments and muscles will thank you.
- Keep eating well. A nutritious diet wards off weight gain, promotes overall health and positively impacts your joint health. To reduce pain-inducing inflammation around the joints, eat foods with omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and nuts. Leafy, dark greens like kale and spinach provide you with vitamin K to strengthen bones. Enjoying vibrant vitamin C filled foods like oranges, red peppers and tomatoes can help to slow cartilage loss and the pain that comes with it.
Talk with your doctor about how you can best incorporate these suggestions into your routine and reduce joint pain this winter.
To schedule an appointment with your primary care provider, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936). If you’re in the Jackson area or south central Michigan, call 1-888-862-DOCS.
Timothy Ekpo, D.O., is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon, specializing in joint preservation, total joint replacement, and total hip and knee reconstruction. He sees patients at the Henry Ford Allegiance Orthopaedic and Neuroscience Center in Jackson.