As summer rolls into the fall season, and cooler weather begins to creep in, some may find that the dull ache in their joints begins to get a little worse, and it gets increasingly hard to move as the temperature drops. To keep you active during those long winter months, our therapy staff at Virginia Gay Hospital has some simple joint protection strategies that will help keep you moving longer, and with less pain throughout the day:
- Get up and move! If you find yourself primarily sitting during the day, try to stand and walk every 30 minutes or hour, even if it’s for a short amount of time. It cuts down on joint stiffness by keeping joints limber and mobile. Incorporating a stretch program into your day can also help cut down on the stiffness and pain and keep you more active during the day.
- Manage your pain. If you’ve had a long day of activity, icing painful joints for 10-15 minutes can help cut down on next-day soreness. If your joints feel particularly stiff in the morning, warm showers at the start of your day may also make limbs more mobile and less painful during the day, as well as a gentle massage. Try using a small foam roller or tennis ball on the muscles where the pain is occurring next time.
- Watch your footwear. Correct footwear can have a significant effect in the reduction of leg and lower back pain. Women should seek out shoes with lower heels as a 3-inch heel stresses your foot seven times more than a 1-inch heel. The higher the heels, the more it stresses your knee and may increase your risk of developing osteoarthritis later. (source: arthritis.org).
- Diet and other lifestyle changes. Opting for a diet of dark leafy greens (broccoli, spinach, and kale) can help to slow cartilage deterioration. Incorporating a weight lifting and walking program of 30 minutes or more can also help maintain the integrity of bones and strengthen the muscles supporting the joints. Curbing smoking and weight loss can also reduce stress on joints and help to maintain the integrity of bone and soft tissue structures.
- Modifications. Use bigger joints to complete tasks when possible. For example, carrying bags and groceries with your forearm rather than hands, closing drawers and doors with your hips, and using built-up handles made of foam or purchased from your local pharmacy can make tasks easier to complete.
Elizabeth Bonorden, OTR/L
Virginia Gay Hospital