Winter woes: How to guard against stiffness and joint aches

With a drop in temperature and atmospheric pressure, winter brings with it knee and other joint pains, especially in those who suffer from arthritis or other inflammatory conditions. The pain is usually a result of swelling of body parts which irritates the nerves, and constriction of blood vessels caused by lower blood circulation.

Many tend to ignore the pain or take painkillers, and postpone a visit to the doctor. “Though it is best to consult a doctor if there is recurring pain, tweaking your lifestyle can help ease symptoms and cope better,” says Dr Atul Mishra, consultant knee surgeon and head of orthopaedics department, Fortis Hospital, Noida.

EAT A BALANCED DIET Apart from a daily healthy diet comprising seasonal fruits, vegetables, pulses, cereals and dairy products, those suffering from joint and knee pain should include foods rich in Vitamin K, D and C such as oranges, spinach, cabbage and tomatoes. These nutrients play an important role in the production of cartilage and help the body absorb calcium, thus strengthening the bones.

DRINK PLENTY OF WATER Dehydration reduces flexibility and may increase the chances of injury. So, one must drink at least 2-3 litres of water in a day. Supplements rich in omega 3 acids, such as vitamin D or fish oil, help decrease inflammation.

STAY ACTIVE Regular exercise helps to increase flexibility, and strengthen the muscles that support the knee. “We never tie up an arthritic joint as it tends to worsen the condition. We tell our patients to keep moving, do light exercises to ensure the joints stay lubricated,” said Dr Raj es hM al hot ra, professor, department of orthopaedics, AIIMS. However, one should not exercise early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are low. “It can leave sick people with aggravated symptoms,” warns Dr Vikas Maurya, chest specialist, BLK Super Speciality Hospital.

GET SOME SUN The sun supplies vitamin D, which is essential for strengthening the bones, and other body functions. Soak up the sun either in the morning or evening. “One needs to stay under the sun continuously for about 45 minutes for the exercise to benefit. Even a five minute gap can reverse the effect,” says Dr Malhotra.

STAY WARM Warm water, either in the form of a hot bath or a heating pad, can help soothe swollen or stiff joints. But doctors warn against using heating pads for more than 20 minutes as it can damage tissues. If your knees ache, try keeping them warm with a sleeve or a wrap. Wear gloves, socks and sweaters to keep your body warm.

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