Winter is usually when I feel the worst. Where I live winter gets plenty cold and since I don’t drive I have to take public transportation for commuting to work and places I need to be, this can mean spending time outdoors when I’d prefer to be under my heating blanket.
Since I can remember I have not been a fan of winter. For me it is a time when the cold seeps into my bones and muscles, making me ache all over. Then pile on the whipping wind, sleet or a storm and my pain and discomfort can go through the roof. And every time I am out in the cold, which is at least twice a day, it can take me so long to warm up.
My rheumatoid arthritis flares usually visit in the winter (or are worsened by it). Something about the cold heightens my joint sensitivity and makes me stiffer and achier than any other time of year. When the days shorten and winter arrives, I try to coax myself with comforting pleasures and additional pampering when I can. Sometimes it’s the little things that help me get through the worst days.
- Time in the whirlpool—For my exercise I go to the pool a few times a week. In the winter, after my exercises I like to spend some time warming up and relaxing in the whirlpool. My joints loosen and my muscles untighten a little with the heat of the swirling water. Afterwards I feel so much better and almost ready to face the cold weather outside.
- Toasted socks—One of the best gifts my husband gave me was a clothes warmer. In the winter we put my socks, coat, and scarf on it every morning. When I put them on I’m nice and toasty before having to go out in the cold. It is marvelous!
- Chocolate pretzels—For me, food is a motivation and a reward. At the end of the day, when I’m cold and crabby I love the salty-sweet of a chocolate-covered pretzel. Sometimes just one does the trick and gives me a smile.
- Heating blanket—You know how Linus from Peanuts carries around a security blanket? If I could do that, it would be my wonderful heating blanket. (Another great gift from my husband, does he know me well or what?!) I crank that thing up to warm the covers and keep it going all night to make my joints warm and happy.
- Massage—Getting massage can be therapeutic for RA, but I also find it can make me feel better when I’m cold because it warms up my muscles and joints. At the place I like to go the beds are heated, so I always ask for it to be turned up high as I love the warmth. But the tricky part is finding that middle ground of massage deep enough to work on the joints without going too deep as to aggravate them.
- Soothing music—As I write I’m listening to some Bach, which is beautiful and soothing. Sometimes I just need to forget my aches for a while and lose my attention in some favorite music. It doesn’t erase the RA, but it lets me concentrate on something beautiful that I can appreciate.
It doesn’t have to be fancy, but we can find relief in little ways. I’ve found some ways to make my wintry days a little warmer and also enjoy some pampering that makes me feel better when I’m achy and cranky.
What kinds of things do you do to feel better or self-pamper on a bad RA day?