Dealing with and Preventing Spring Aches and Pains

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The change of seasons from winter to spring is a great opportunity to get back outside and do the activities you enjoy, but it can also bring the aches and pains of sensitive joints or overexertion. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the weather:

Weather-related joint pain
People with inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis may find that their joints are sensitive to the atmospheric pressure changes that accompany spring. Rain or humidity can lead to swelling in the affected joint, causing pain and discomfort. There isn’t much you can do about the weather, but ice or heat can help you manage the symptoms. If you’re in a lot of pain and your joint is swollen and red, try applying ice. If you wake up in the morning feeling very stiff and achy, you may find that using a heating pad helps.

Getting Back Outdoors
If you’ve been inside all winter and are starting to do more outdoor activities like gardening, take it slow and easy. Don’t try to get everything done in one day or weekend. Use a wheelbarrow to move around heavy items rather than trying to lug them yourself, and maintain good posture while you lift things and as you’re bent over the ground. Lift with your knees instead of your back, and don’t slouch over-keep your back straight. Sitting on a small stool as you work will cause less strain on your legs than kneeling or crouching down.

A lot of people who enjoy running prefer to do it outside, and so find themselves not doing very much of it throughout the colder months. If this is you, don’t try to compensate for the weeks or months that you didn’t run by pushing yourself too hard-you only risk injuring yourself and getting set even further back! Start slow and increase your mileage gradually.

If spring means pulling your tennis racket out of the back of the closet, start by playing doubles so that you don’t have to run back and forth across the court as rigorously, and go back to playing singles when you’ve built up your cardiovascular strength enough to play a game of doubles without getting winded.

Whatever form of exercise you prefer, if you’ve been relatively sedentary over the winter don’t start exercising every single day. Start with 2 or 3 times a week to give your muscles time to rest in between sessions. It’s also a good idea to warm-up and cool down with a few minutes of gentle activity like stretching or light bicycling. Warming up will loosen your muscles, and cooling down can help prevent tears or injuries. If you find that you’re sore or aching after you exercise, try applying ice for 15-20 minutes. If the soreness continues or if you’re experiencing pain, consult a physician or a physical therapist.

Lauren-Piljic-200-240Lauren Piljic is a doctor of physical therapy and is the Assistant Section Manager at the Joint Mobility Center at Hospital for Special Surgery.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.

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