Jack Frost vs. Us

We don’t see much snow in Arkansas, so when winter weather rolls in four times over two weeks, things get pretty crazy around here.  None of us are used to this white dust falling from the sky, especially my bum thumb and I.

However, now that I’ve experienced several snows days in a row, I’ve found a few ways to help your joints and Mr. Frost get along.  So this blog is for RA patients like me who had not experienced enough snow days yet to figure out what we need to do to feel better when that icy junk comes through our neck of the woods.

Firstly, bundle up. This is a no-brainer, but it’s important.  I’m not going to go into the science of cold fronts moving in, pressure systems, yadda yadda, frankly I’m no expert on weather.  But here’s how I see it: when you’re cold, your body is tense and uncomfortable (in contrast, you are most relaxed when it is warm outside, which is why many people have few to no RA problems during spring and summer, myself included).  When you’re tense, you don’t move around as much, contributing to the stiffness of your joints.  Therefore, the logical thing to do is to keep yourself very, very warm.

When going to class on super cold days, I wear stockings (similar to something like this)  and jeans, a shirt, hoodie, and jacket, gloves and earmuffs.  Yup, earmuffs! They’re lifesavers.  Trust me on this one, it makes a big difference to bundle up.  I never realized just how much all this garb helped until I was running late one day and did not have the time to don all of the gear.

Next, buy one of these or something like it.  It’s a hot/cold therapy pack you can take with you to school/work/whatever.  My Sonoma “Chill Out!” pack is lavender scented, which can be great in relieving stress.  When chilled, this pack is also great for reducing swelling.  You simply pop the pack into the microwave for 20 seconds to heat it up.  I usually do it for 20 seconds twice so that way it’s good and hot, but never do it more than 30 seconds at a time.  Walgreen’s and Walmart usually carries similar therapy packs that generally follow the same instruction.  Because all microwaves are different, use caution and always test your therapy pack a few seconds under the given amount first to be safe.

Take lots of hot baths.  How can you not love this tip?  An excuse to treat yourself to a relaxing get away from the world?  Yes, please!  Submerging your joints in hot water for long lengths of time can do wonders for you.  About five minutes before getting out, try stretching and bending your tender joints to help loosen them up.  I usually come out of baths like these feeling energized and ready to take on the world.  Or the mountainous stacks of homework on my desk, at least.

Eat a little more often.  Although this doesn’t mean eat more.  Instead of eating two or three big meals a day, try eating six little meals a day.  This speeds up your metabolism and makes your warmer. What more reason could you need?  (Just try to tell me that this doesn’t look good!)

Now go grab a muffin.  I’ll wait.

Get all of  that wonderous beauty sleep in. This goes for anytime of the year.  It’s a given, if you don’t sleep enough, you’re joints won’t thank you for it in the morning.  It could throw off your whole day, I know it does to me. Everybody requires different amounts of sleep, but no one with RA should get less than eight hours a night.

I realize that there are a lot of RA patients out there who cannot sleep as well because of their pain.  If you’re one of them, take a nap or two in the middle of the day.  If you don’t actually sleep, at least lay down.  If you do this every day at the same time it is quite likely that your body will adopt this sleeping pattern.  This is basically how I got through high school, and I still tend to do it now that I’m in college.

However, this can be quite tricky for busy schedules, but you only get one body, you have to take care of it first.  Re-organizing your daily life so that you will have time for naps (or long baths, strecthing after waking up, etc.) is just part of adapting to the disease.  Getting enough sleep is very important, and it could mean better control over your RA.  If that isn’t worth the re-organization then I don’t know what is.

Since cold weather can also make you sick, and we are susceptible to being ill, ask your Rheumatologist to recommend an allergy medication, and keep this medication on hand. Do NOT just randomly pick something at your closest Walmart.  You take several medications that could possibly interact with that Claritin you just picked up, so put it back down and go do your homework first.  It doesn’t hurt to double check with a pharmacist at Walgreen’s even after getting the ok from your rheumy.

And finally, take it easy on yourself, physically and mentally.  Winter weather can definitely aggravate your RA, but if you work too hard or stress yourself out about school/work, you’re asking for a full out flare.  Put all of your worries in a little bitty box in your mind and bury it.  That box is now Pandora’s box until the snow is gone.  If you open it while you can’t handle it, it will only make things worse.

If you absolutely have to, you can take one piece of a worry out at a time.  One PIECE.  But that’s it!  Else Cari and her bum thumb will come find you!  🙂

I hope you guys will find this post helpful.  I wrote most of it on a snowy day early last week, and have now finished it on a snowy Valentine’s day.  Usually I wouldn’t have been able to type at all, but these tips made Jack Frost a little nicer to me.  Maybe he’ll be a little nicer to you, as well.

Stay healthy, friends!  😀

Cari

(Don’t forget, if you’ve got a Facebook page, check out My Bum Thumb’s group page!)

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