Ward off winter aches and pains

Up to two-thirds of people with chronic pain report noticing weather-related changes in their symptoms.
Scientists believe that variations in barometric pressure may be to blame.

With the onset of cooler weather, aches and pains often become more bothersome. You may feel stiff, and find it hard to get moving in the morning.

But winter doesn’t have to be miserable. Follow these simple steps to stave off soreness.

Keep warm

Warmth helps muscles to relax and improves circulation. Keeping your house warm, dressing in layers and warming up the car before you go out can all help with cold-related pain, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Try wearing a scarf if your neck gets painful. Gloves and socks help circulation in the extremities.

Using an electric blanket can ease night pain. Try turning it on 15 minutes before bedtime. Heat packs can be used to soothe stiffness and aching.

Always take care when using heat treatments. Aim for a comfortable warmth. Avoid using heat therapy on any area where sensation or circulation is compromised, such as diabetic limbs.

Stay active

Don’t use cold weather as an excuse to let your exercise routine slide. Loosen up your joints with range of movement exercises.

Gentle stretching can help stiff muscles. In fine weather, head outside for a walk. Find a heated pool where you can swim or do aqua aerobics. In bad weather, exercise indoors to a DVD, or with equipment such as a stationary bike. Always check with your doctor before commencing a new exercise routine.

Manage your weight 

The cooler weather can lead to cravings for stodgy food. Remember, any extra weight means extra load on your feet, ankles, knees and hips.
It’s easier to avoid gaining weight than losing it.
Maintain a sensible eating plan through the cooler months and avoid the winter kilo creep.

Massage your pains away

Improved circulation and relaxation are well-recognised benefits of massage.
Regular massage can also help with arthritis pain, a study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed.
Study participants received an hour’s massage weekly for eight weeks, and reported significant improvements in pain, stiffness and function.

Check Vitamin D

With more time spent indoors, it can be hard to get adequate vitamin D.
Evidence suggests that low vitamin D levels are associated with increased sensitivity to arthritis pain, according to the journal Pain Management.
This important vitamin is also related to osteoporosis prevention and reducing falls risk. Your doctor can organise a blood test, and recommend supplementation if needed.

Get fishy

Fish oil supplements have been extensively studied and shown to be effective in improving the pain and stiffness of rheumatoid arthritis, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
There is preliminary evidence for similar effectiveness in osteoarthritis.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before starting on fish oil, to ensure correct dosage and avoid any adverse interactions with other medications.

Stay positive

The cool weather will pass soon enough. Pace yourself, get adequate sleep and focus on what you can do. A positive mindset will see you through to spring.

Sophia Auld has been a physio-therapist for 26 years. Email sophia.auld@gmail.com or call 0418 721 856