Ratna Pandey, 56, who has had arthritis for nearly a decade, avoids stepping out, especially in the mornings and evenings.
“Getting out of bed early in the morning is tough in winter as the joints of my hands and feet seem jammed. I dip my hands and feet in a bucketful of warm water for a few minutes each day before I start my day,” she says.
Cold air and damp weather contributes in a major way towards bone and joint flare ups, especially in people who already have a bone disease or are over 60 years old. There are multiple reasons for it, say experts.
First, the muscles tend to go into a spasm in cold temperature; and second, in extreme cold, blood vessels constrict and circulation to skin surface goes down to conserve heat.
“We feel pain because of certain chemicals that are released when we get hurt, and to alleviate the pain, increased blood supply is needed. In winter, blood supply is restricted, so we feel more pain in cold weather,” said Dr Rajesh Malhotra, professor, department of orthpaedics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
In winter, one tends to move less, which aggravates symptoms of osteoarthritis. “We never tie up an arthritic joint as it tends to worsen its condition. We always tell our patients to keep moving and do easy exercises to ensure the joints stay well lubricated,” added Dr Malhotra.
Also, older people are at higher risk of getting fractures of the spine and ribs because of violent coughing triggered by chest congestion. Among preventive measures, doctors recommend conserving energy by keeping warm, especially if the person is old and has low body fat.
“It is better to wear two-three layers than wearing a thick jacket or sweater. Wearing thermals will help. If they feel warm then they will be able to move joints freely,” said Dr Palash Gupta, senior orthopaedician, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh. Another important thing that people tend to skip in winter is staying hydrated. Doctors recommend at least 500 ml of water throughout the day. If there is a heater in the room, always keep an open vessel with water in the room to maintain humidity and prevent problems such as developing a dry cough.