Winter is here again, and this can mean many things to many people. There are holidays and family get-togethers, and also cold and flu season. Additionally, for many people in the retirement community, winter brings joint aches and pains.
Many people, jokingly or not, state that they can predict the weather based on the pain they feel in their joints. Research tells us there is truth to this – the weather can cause discomfort for people who have arthritis and other joint pain. Every 10-degree drop in temperature corresponds to an increase in joint pain. As the barometric pressure drops, tissues can swell, which pushes them against muscles and nerves and causes pain.
There are several tips that people in retirement communities can take to protect themselves against joint pain in the winter.
- Eat a balanced, healthy diet with limited fat and refined carbs. Stay hydrated. Drink warm beverages to keep your body warm to alleviate joint pain. Drink a cup of herbal tea (try to avoid caffeine, which weakens your bones.) Also, increase your calcium intake to keep the bones strong – try broccoli, salmon, and yogurt. Avoid excess alcohol.
- Stay warm – dress in warm, comfortable layers, wear gloves (or mittens) and a hat. It is important to stay dry as well. If needed, use an electric blanket or mattress cover to keep you warm at night.
- Exercise will keep the blood flowing to the joints and alleviates aches and pains. If it is cold outside, choose low-impact indoor activities like aerobics, weight-training, swimming in a heated pool, riding an exercise bicycle. Controlling your weight will take a lot of pressure off the joints and help with arthritis.
- Supplements and vitamins can help. If your body is deficient in vitamin D, arthritis will worsen. Make sure your diet is rich in vitamins or take a daily vitamin D supplement, as well as fish oil which will help reduce the level of inflammation. Make sure you tell your doctor about any vitamins or supplements you take, as they can interfere with the efficiency of any prescribed medication.
- Get some fresh air. Weather permitting, dress warmly and go for a brisk walk to benefit from the exercise, and the vitamin D from sun exposure. Wear comfortable shoes and sunscreen. Being active improves your mood as well.
- If the knees become inflamed, you can apply an ice-pack to reduce swelling or a bag of frozen peas will work also. There are also natural remedies such as blanched cabbage leaves or aloe vera, or a compress made of mashed comfrey root or comfrey tea-soaked compress will reduce inflammation.
As always, if your joint pain or discomfort worsens, see your doctor.