Looking after your joints in winter

10 January 2020

January is that time of year where Christmas cheer has been and gone, outside has become cold and wet and our joints start to feel a little more achy. Spire Elland physiotherapist Miss Dilly Shaw has some top tips to get you back to feeling yourself this winter. 

A condition called osteoarthritis is a chronic condition affecting the joints, mainly in those over the age of 45. It is where the cushioning cartilage, that normally provides a smooth surface for joints to glide, breaks down. This causes swelling, pain and problems moving the joint. Some people are symptom-free and some can be severely affected. While the changes are not necessarily reversible, the symptoms can most definitely be managed.

For physiotherapists, it is their job to get you moving and boost your wellbeing so here are our top tips for looking after your joints this winter:

  • Most importantly, it is best to keep moving. When your joints move, a lubricant called synovial fluid is created to help keep the movement smooth. Producing synovial fluid is the equivalent to oiling a creaky door. Exercise and movement are great to help stop those joints from getting stiff.
  • Heat helps muscles to relax by promoting blood flow to the area. A hot bath, heat pads and hot water bottles are great for helping to manage ‘jointy’ pain.
  • If you are finding movement difficult, then it is worth discussing pain-relief with your GP or pharmacist if you feel your pain is not well-controlled.
  • Remember to pace yourself. Many people’s joint pain flares up and down, especially with changes in temperature so ensure you listen to your body and plan your activity dependant on your symptoms. Move little and often if you have to.
  • Strengthen and stretch. Speak to a physiotherapist about some targeted exercises to help strengthen and lengthen the muscles around the joints, to take the load off the joint itself and hopefully alleviate pain. Improved strength helps with balance, power, endurance and everyday functioning. Remember, you can’t go wrong with getting strong.
  •  If you are returning to your normal exercise routine after a few weeks off, remember to be kind to yourself. Don’t expect to jump straight back in where you left off. You will likely need to start at 60-70% of what you were performing at before your Christmas break, particularly if you haven’t exercised since the beginning of December. It is worth taking more time for recovery in between to allow for an injury-free return.

How about pilates?

This is the perfect time of year to make some positive changes, beat the winter gloom and try something new. If you have made a promise to yourself to focus more on your wellbeing and address aches or pains then pilates could help you achieve your goals.

At Spire Elland Hospital, we offer small group classes, where the exercises are easily adapted to suit your needs and abilities. All classes are led by a chartered physiotherapist and use clinical principles to help strengthen your muscles and joints. While pilates focusses on strengthening the deep core muscles, it is also great for providing stability to all joints. It can help you to improve overall body alignment and enhance normal patterns of movement; helping to alleviate pain and make you feel good. 

Learn about pilates at Spire Elland

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