Dr. Gary Stein of Santa Rosa Orthopaedics offers timely tips for arthritis pain management and highlights the latest studies long term care options.

Joint pain is a real concern for patients with arthritis. As the early months of the New Year approach with colder/wetter conditions prevailing, many find that symptoms become more difficult to manage. The key to getting through shorter days and inclement weather is knowing how to manage symptoms and taking preventative action to avoid aggravating vulnerable joints.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 43 percent of the 52.5 million adults with arthritis report experiencing limitations in their usual activities due to arthritis. In the winter months those limitations can become even more problematic. To keep vital organs warm and protected when exposed to cold weather the body will restrict the flow of blood to extremities. This results in a loss of heat and a reduction in blood flow to tender joints like fingers, elbows, feet and knees resulting in an increase in joint pain, stiffness and other arthritis symptoms.

In the colder months of the year paying attention to the signals of pain in or around a joint can help prevent a more serious injury. “If an activity causes pain, resist the urge to push on,” says Dr. Gary Stein SRO orthopaedic surgeon. “When pain flares up in joints, stop the activity and find a way to modify how you are approaching the task. By paying attention to the body’s signals patients can greatly reduce the risk of causing more damage to joint.”

Resist the tendency to slow down

It’s a fact that many people experience depression during the long winter months, and depression can intensify the effects of pain. The Mayo Clinic reports that daily exercise can lead to better physical health and improved mental health as well. Researchers have discovered that even common daily physical activity including walking can help elevate mood.

Adding strengthening exercises to the routine can also help slow the progression of bone loss due to aging and help prevent osteoporosis. “Having strong muscles around a joint is a good way to protect the joint,” Dr. Stein explains. “By doing strengthening exercises two to three times a week it is possible to build bones and muscles around joints. This helps to protect joints and can lesson symptoms associated with arthritis.” Strengthening muscles also helps the body absorb some of the shock that normally goes through the joint during normal activities.

Lose the extra pounds for joint health

Losing a few pounds is also a good way to take stress off the knees and hips. With every pound lost, four pounds of pressure is taken off the knee, lessening wear and tear on the joint. It maybe also be possible to slow the progress of arthritis by maintaining a more ideal body weight. Studies show a clear correlation between weight loss and pain reduction in arthritis patients who were overweight.

“Arthritis pain may cause a person to be reluctant to work out, but it’s been clearly demonstrated by researchers that pain and stiffness only gets worse when a person becomes sedentary,” said Dr. Stein. “Any type of routine exercise that gets the heart pumping will boost blood flow, which in turn helps to keep cartilage well-nourished, and promotes overall healthfulness.”

Dr. Stein also suggests that arthritis patients avoid high-impact activities, like jumping and running in favor of walking, cycling and swimming. About 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days a week is recommended by the Arthritis Foundation. They also suggest incorporating short sessions of activity during the day or over a week to achieve the best health benefits. For example; take three 10-minute brisk walks instead of one 30-minute workout. Even during the cold winter months maintaining an active lifestyle is one of the best ways to keep bones and joints working well.

About SRO

For over sixty years, SRO has provided people in pain with hip, knee, ankle, elbow, and shoulder replacement surgery, as well as state-of-the-art outpatient physical therapy services to make damaged joints healthy again. SRO surgeons and physical therapists care and pride themselves on getting patients back to the activities they love, and helping re-establish independence and livelihood.

In its efforts to bring the best outcomes to patients, SRO also offers patients in-house diagnostic imaging, rehabilitation, sports injury prevention, as well as advanced surgical treatments in joint replacement, sports medicine, trauma care, hand, foot, ankle, and general orthopedic surgery. For more information about SRO surgeons and services visit srortho.com or call 707.546.1922.