’Tis the Season to Side Step Joint Pain

From baking to building snowmen, you can make a few RA-friendly tweaks to ease joint pain and stay jolly this holiday season. 

Katie Alberts
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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.

April 2013