From baking to building snowmen, you can make a few RA-friendly tweaks to ease joint pain and stay jolly this holiday season.
Looking forward to a season of decorating, caroling and parties? Our smart tips and rheumatoid arthritis-friendly strategies will help you sidestep joint pain and have a happy holiday.
Baking made easy
• Give your hands a rest. “Instead of using heavy metal bakeware, pick up disposable foil versions at the supermarket,” recommends Shelley Peterman Schwarz, author of Arthritis: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier. “They’re ultra-light, so you don’t have to strain to remove them from the oven.”
• Power up your pies. Apple, pecan and pumpkin pies are the perfect vehicle for getting your daily dose of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. Simply sprinkle ground flaxseed (a great source) on top and into the crust—you won’t even notice it’s there!
• Take a shortcut to the gingerbread house. Craft and baking stores sell kits with prebaked pieces, so you can get right to the fun part (and the part that’s easiest on hands)—assembling and decorating your custom structure!
• Scope out the room. “As soon as you walk in, look for a comfortable high seat,” says Schwarz. “Climbing out of a low-lying sofa or chair will strain joints, especially knees. But before you sit down, take a look at the food being offered. This way, when someone asks if they can bring you a plate, you’ll be able to tell them exactly what you want.”
• Mind your medications. Grapefruit, pomegranate and other juices used as mixers can interfere with arthritis prescriptions. Check with your pharmacist before you imbibe.
• Fill up on fish. If you see salmon, sardines or anchovies on the menu, snap them up. A recent study in Arthritis Research & Therapy found that the omega-3 fatty acids they contain don’t just fight inflammation—they may help slow down cartilage degeneration, too!
• Try this phrase while mingling. “Even if you’re in the middle of a conversation, it’s fine to ask, ‘Why don’t we go sit down?’ In fact, most people welcome the suggestion—even at cocktail parties!”
• Order online. “Last year I realized that shopping for presents on the Internet can be just as special and personalized as being at the mall,” says Wren Vandever of RheumaBlog.wordpress.com. “You can really take the time to pick the perfect thing for everyone on your list without running around, wrapping and mailing—and you’ll have more energy for the fun part when Christmas arrives!”
• Wrap without scissors or tape. Want an alternative to fancy gift bags? “I like to wrap gifts in colored tin foil—just scrunch and you’re done,” says Schwarz.
• Apply for parking privileges. “Many people don’t know about temporary disabled parking permits, often available if a surgery or injury makes it difficult for you to get around,” says Schwarz.
Build a snowman
• Bring out trekking poles. Designed with pointy ends, they make it easy to feel secure and balanced on the snow—and you can use them come spring for walks around the neighborhood! Have a stool with rubber feet? Bring it out, too, so you don’t have to crouch.
• Stock up on hand warmers. “You can buy disposable ones and tuck them into your coat pocket,” says Vandever. “Or invest in new rechargeable ones that can be used over and over.”
• Don’t forget the SPF. Some medications make skin flaky or photosensitive, so lather on sunblock before you head out.
Putting up decorations
• Stretch before you decorate. “In December and January, physical therapy practices are full of patients who’ve hurt themselves decorating their tree or stringing lights,” says John Gallucci Jr., PT, founder of JAG Physical Therapy. “Prevent injury by gently stretching out your shoulders, spine and chest before you start. A good one to try is the ‘corner’ stretch: Stand in a corner with hands just above shoulder level, pressed against the wall, and feet 18 inches from the corner. Lean forward until you feel a comfortable stretch across your chest, holding 15 seconds.” (Note: Check with your doctor before trying any new exercises.)
• Have your reachers handy. Gather grabbers and tongs of various lengths and keep them nearby so you won’t be tempted to reach farther than is safe.
• Plug in a night-light. Decorating often requires rearranging furniture—to avoid tripping in the dark, install a night-light.
• Simplify your cleanup. Lay a tarp or garbage bag underneath your Christmas tree skirt. When you’re ready to take down your tree, it will be easy to bundle up and toss stray needles and tinsel.