The cold winter months in Minnesota can be hard on our bodies and our joints. However, we can’t just curl up in a ball and wait for spring to arrive. We need to be proactive and make some conscious choices to help keep our joints healthy throughout the winter months. With that in mind, we wanted to share some ways that you can work to improve the health of your joints during the cold winter months.
Protecting Your Joints This Winter
When our bodies are cold, the synovial fluid in our joints can thicken. This synovial fluid helps to lubricate the joint and ensure healthy motion, so when it can’t lubricate the joint as easily, you may notice that movement isn’t as comfortable as normal. So while it’s important to keep your body warm so that this synovial fluid can continue to do its job, there are other things you’ll want to do to protect your joints this winter. Here are some ways to protect your joints this winter.
- Stay Active – We understand that it may not be as enjoyable to get outside or be active when the temperatures are in the single digits, but staying active is what will improve the health and function of your joints. Don’t become sedentary just because the temps drop. Plan ahead and push yourself to be active, because your joints crave this activity! If you’re really worried about the temperature, take your workout indoors. Swim laps at a pool or connect with a physical therapist for some one-on-one exercise routines.
- Mind Your Diet – If we’re less active during the winter, and we indulge in a few too many holiday sweets, it’s easy to gain some weight. This extra weight will only serve to put additional strain on your joints, which can lead to earlier cartilage degeneration. Be mindful of your diet this holiday season and stay active to help burn off any excess calories to help protect your joints.
- Stretch – Stretching before activity will help to prepare the synovial fluid and the soft tissues in your joints for the movement to come. Stretching is helpful at all times of year, but it’s even more important when our bodies are cold and our muscles need more time to transition from an inactive to an active state. Take a couple of minutes to stretch your back, neck, arms and legs before you head outside to shovel the driveway or take the dog for a walk.
- Heat Therapy – Use heat to your advantage this winter. When our bodies are cold, blood vessels constrict and it’s harder for healthy blood to circulate as easily. Our joints need an adequate supply of healthy blood, so use a heating pad to help open up blood vessels near aching joints. You can also take a warm bath or a hot shower to help your whole body get the benefits of heat therapy.
- Wrap Them – Presents aren’t the only thing that should be wrapped this time of year. Your joints can benefit from the added support that a wrap can bring, and this compression can also help to open up blood vessels and improve blood flow. These wraps can also provide an extra layer of warmth, and we touched on the benefits of keeping your joints warm above. Compression wraps or sleeves can be an added layer of protection for your joints this winter.
If you want some individualized help keeping your joints healthy this winter, or you’ve had lingering joint pain for some time and want to see if a physical therapist can help alleviate your discomfort, reach out to the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today at (612) 339-2041.
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