Winter is on the way, and that means freezing wind, icy sidewalks, and snowy driveways. For people with a pain condition, cold weather can also mean more aches and pains, as well as more opportunities for accidental injuries. This doesn’t have to be true, though. Here are four ways to stay warm and healthy during cold weather.

1. Keep your body healthy during the cold weather months

Don’t forget that producing body heat requires energy from food, so make sure you eat regular meals. The type of meal you eat can help you stay warm in cold weather, too. Whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, or wheat bread provide a boost of immediate energy that can help you stay warm. Spices with a little heat, like ginger, cinnamon, or turmeric, might actually help you feel warm if you add them to recipes.

Also keep in mind your food’s temperature. Hot foods like soups and stews are a great way to keep warm. If you want to eat something cold for a meal, time it carefully, as explained by AccuWeather.com:

“A salad, for instance, can be eaten during the afternoon when the body is at its warmest. But a stew or a soup… in the evening can help the body keep warm through the night.”

Warm drinks can keep you from getting chilled, too. Few things feel as good as wrapping your cold hands around a hot mug. Additionally, dry winter air doesn’t just cause chapped lips and hands. It can cause dehydration, which can worsen pain from conditions like arthritis and make it difficult for your body to process waste.

However, caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it helps your body move fluids through faster. Because of this, it may be a good idea to choose drinks that aren’t caffeinated, such as herbal teas, decaffeinated coffee, or even hot water.

If you’re staying indoors more often than usual because of the cold weather, talk to your physician about taking vitamin D. It’s not uncommon to develop a deficiency in vitamin D during the winter, which can cause headaches.

2. Dress for warmth

This doesn’t mean just wearing a long-sleeved shirt instead of a short-sleeved one. This means choosing pieces of clothing very carefully and layering them. Wear an underlayer of a light, fitted, comfortable material. A cotton undershirt or soft long johns work well for this. Then wear an outer layer of a heavier materiel. A wool sweater and wool pants might be a good choice, since wool is better than other materials at retaining its heat even when it gets wet.

Layering socks can help your feet stay warm, but be careful if you’ve got hard floors like wood or linoleum. Look for thick socks that have rubber grips on the soles, or wear slippers. Also, if your feet are prone to swelling, be careful not to wear sock so tight that they cut off your circulation.

When you go outside, make sure you at least wear a warm coat. On very cold days, consider adding a hat, gloves, scarves, or even snow pants. If you’re still chilled when you get home, toss your blanket, clothes, or pajamas in the dryer for a few minutes to get them pleasantly warm, and don’t underestimate the power of a steamy shower to warm you up.

3. Make sure your house is ready for cold weather

Keeping the heat in can stave off aches and pains from cold weather. Some easy ways to prepare your home for winter include:

  • Opening the curtains and letting in the sunlight during the day
  • Keeping the doors of unused rooms closed
  • Closing one or two furnace vents to funnel heat into the living space
  • Getting a few area rugs
  • Blocking up drafts

Rolled up towels can block drafts under doors, or you can look for a draft guard or draft stopper. Thick curtains can block cold air from windows. If you’ve still got cold drafts in the house, consider calling a handyman to check the electrical outlets, the attic, the chimney, and the rest of the house.

Make sure you do regular maintenance on your furnace, too. Changing the filter is important, but many companies also suggest having it cleaned and checked by a professional. This will cost a little money, but having the furnace checked out in advance is much preferable to your furnace malfunctioning and shutting off in the middle of a snowstorm.

4. Be careful when dealing with snow and ice to prevent injuries

Icy sidewalks are relatively easy to deal with. A handful or two of ice melt will do the trick. Wear boots with good support and tread to make sure you don’t slip on any lingering patches of ice. If you use a cane or walker, check the base or legs for traction. If your cane or walker doesn’t grip the ice well, get a rubber cane tip or ice gripper.

Also, try not to tense up when you’re walking on ice. If you’re tense for a long period of time, it can cause sore muscles later. Additionally, you’re much more likely to suffer an injury if you fall while tensed up. The safest way to walk on ice is to shuffle the feet without lifting them too high.

Shoveling snow can cause a host of problems on its own, especially if you have a pain condition. If possible, try to avoid shoveling snow. Look into a snow-removal company that clears your driveway early in the morning, or ask a neighbor if they’d be able to help out.

If you’ve got to do it yourself, get a light-weight, ergonomic shovel. Do a little warm-up before heading outside, such as a few stretches. Lift small amounts of snow at a time. Keep your back straight, and try to lift with your legs, instead of with your back. If possible, try to squat down instead of bending at the waist. When you drop the snow, do it without twisting your back, and alternate sides. Pace yourself and take breaks. Your own well-being is more important than getting the driveway cleared quickly.

Talk to your physician about other ways to manage your pain during cold weather if you’re still uncomfortable. He or she might know other tips or tricks for you, or your pain medications might have to be adjusted during winter.

How do you manage your pain during cold weather?

Image by papagaio-pirata via Flickr

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