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Health Information Arthritis

Give sore joints some extra wintertime attention

For some, winter means a cozy fire, a comfortable sweater and hot cocoa. But for people with arthritis, it can mean more unpleasant things, such as stiffness and pain.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help control arthritis symptoms.

Keep moving

The most important way to control symptoms may be maintaining physical activity, says Najia Shakoor, MD, a rheumatologist at Rush University Medical Center, which is nationally recognized for its research in osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis.

People frequently notice worsening symptoms during winter, not necessarily due to the cold, but due to the decrease in activity that is common during cold weather.

“There are many studies that show exercise can do a great deal to improve osteoarthritis symptoms, from decreasing pain and disability to improving joint function,” Shakoor says.

According to Shakoor, a session or two with a physical therapist might prove invaluable. A physical therapist can teach you specific exercises to strengthen muscles, increase range of motion and improve flexibility.

High-impact exercises such as step aerobics and kickboxing might be out of the question, but lower impact workouts such as yoga, Pilates and tai chi can help strengthen joints and improve flexibility — without the strain. Exercises done in a warm indoor pool can also provide an excellent workout without putting stress on your joints.

But I already exercise!

If you’re already active and your workout routine isn’t helping your pain and stiffness, your doctor can help pinpoint the type of treatment that will work best for you depending on the location, type and severity of your arthritis. Your doctor can then customize a treatment plan that may include:

  • A splint or brace to prevent additional injury
  • Medication to reduce pain and/or swelling
  • A heating pad or warm bath or shower to relieve pain

Research at Rush

Studies about osteoarthritis and better methods of pain management are ongoing. One current study involves the relationship between arthritis and the mechanics of walking; another examines the benefits of special shoe inserts to relieve osteoarthritis symptoms. For details, call (888) 352-RUSH (7874).

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