The onset of cold weather can strike fear into the minds of those who suffer more body pain in the winter months. While theories abound and the science on why is not clear, people experiencing conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid and other systemic arthritis may dread the next few months. But there is hope!
One thing is for certain, curling up in a ball and hiding from the cold will not help. While it can be very hard to get motivated and past experiences may deter you from trying to actively manage the cold times, there are simple ways to both better manage your body AND improve the outlook for the future.
We’ve put together the “OANEWS” tips to help you manage and improve.
O – OPTIONS Know your condition through good self-education and talking to your health care professionals. https://www.arthritis.org.nz/ is a good place to find more information. Review your medications with your GP (do you really need them all?) and especially know the things that are low value-options – many commercial supplements, passive treatments like electrotherapy machines and surgery for non-traumatic generalised arthritis.
A – ACTIVE Yes it sounds easy but in reality, it is hard for many with aching knees, hips or spines to get moving. Water (hydrotherapy) is a great option if you can find a suitable venue and low-key supervised circuit or pilates mat classes are also a really effective way to gently get moving again and gain some confidence. Walking daily is simple and cheap but if it hurts, you need to find another method of exercise that works for you.
N – NUTRITION. Seek expert help with your diet, as subtle changes can make a big difference. Weight loss is critical for many with arthritis but when it’s hard to exercise, your diet can be a starting point to get you moving.
E – EDUCATE – Do you actually have arthritis? “itis” is a latin suffix used in medicine to indicate inflammation. You can have normal age-related changes in your joints without inflammation and label yourself as having arthritis! The stigma associated with this can trigger impending doom and a life of pain which can be not only completely wrong, but harmful to your physical and mental health. There is irrefutable research to show plenty of people your age have ‘degeneration’ but no pain. It’s not straight forward.
W – WARM. Staying warm can help and actively warming up in the morning can help the day begin with less fear and groaning. Gloves, warm socks and some light compression garments may help you feel less vulnerable to the cold and get yourself going. The best morning warm-up is gentle movements through easy range like side to side leg rolls, bend and straighten knees, rock and circle pelvis and gentle twist trunk all before you get out of bed and load up your body. Garments with magic magnets or other ‘cures’ are not proven and will likely rob you of both money and hope.
S – STRONG!!! The most important and research-proven aspect of arthritis management is getting stronger. Your joints are under less strain when the surrounding muscles are stronger and your whole body plays a role in helping this – whether you have neck, back, hip or knee pain. Along with strength, other aspects of movement like balance and flexibility can be markedly improved with a graded exercise program delivered in a safe, supportive environment where you can have a program tailored for your body and your aims.
Start with an assessment from one of our staff who can design a program that will not aggravate your joints and can slowly build both strength and movement confidence, decrease pain and regain the ability to really live!