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Tips from orthopedist on safeguarding joints in winter and choosing right footwear

Tips from orthopedist on safeguarding joints in winter and choosing right footwear The orthopedist explained how to protect joints in winter (Collage by RBC-Ukraine)
Author: Daria Shekina

Why does cold harm joints? How to choose the right winter footwear to avoid injuries? In what cases is it worth seeking medical advice?

Renowned Ukrainian orthopedic surgeon Oleksandr Galuzynskyi provided advice to readers of RBC-Ukraine on these and other relevant questions.

Is it true that joint problems occur more often in winter?

Yes, winter is quite an aggressive period for joints. When the weather changes and atmospheric pressure drops or rises, the pressure within the joints also changes. They become more constricted, which can cause discomfort or even pain. There are other threats as well.

Just getting too cold during a walk can cause fluid thickening in the joints and muscle spasms. I'll add that people move less in winter, which also negatively affects joint health.

How to take care of joints in the cold season?

The best advice: always dress according to the weather. By doing this, you'll not only help your joints but also avoid falling ill. At low temperatures, the main goal is not to freeze. And when that fails - rush home immediately to warm up!

Taking a warm, not hot, shower will quickly help. You want warm water to slowly heat your muscles. Alternatively, take a warm bath. If there's no time for a shower or bath, prepare a hot tea. If you feel stiffness in your joints, use a warming ointment. And dress in layers to avoid getting cold.

Perhaps, special footwear is needed in winter… What do you advise?

If your footwear is comfortable, provides good protection from the cold, and prevents slipping on ice - then you've probably found the perfect pair. Slippery soles are perhaps the most common cause of joint injuries in the winter period.

So, choose shoes with non-slip soles and good cushioning. To protect yourself from injuries during icy conditions, you can wear ice grips on your shoes: there's quite a variety available now. For women willing to sacrifice health for beauty, I still don't recommend wearing high heels on icy surfaces.

How to prepare your joints for winter?

There's no better way to prepare your joints for winter than engaging in sports activities. So, exercise daily. Not just in winter but throughout the year. You can find good exercise routines on YouTube, but if you already have joint problems, consult a doctor first.

Perform exercises regularly but without fanaticism or excessive strain. Don't strive for records. Swimming and Pilates can help keep joints in shape. Joints need movement, so even regular daily walks will promote their proper function.

For people with excessive weight, consider a diet. Extra weight is an additional burden. In winter, when you already have to wear a lot of clothes, those extra kilograms certainly don't add health to your joints.

Regarding nutrition: what foods help strengthen joints?

First and foremost, maintaining proper hydration is crucial for joint health as fluids lubricate the joints and maintain cartilage flexibility. Unfortunately, some people don't like drinking plain water and substitute it with coffee, tea, compotes, or juices.

If you also forget to drink water, use a smartphone app that reminds you to have a glass of water. As for your diet, both in summer and winter, joints need calcium. If your diet lacks this mineral, your body will take it from your bones, leading to problems.

Ensure that your diet includes dairy products, vegetables, cereals, meat, and fish. Based on your family doctor's advice, you can select a vitamin complex that will provide your body with the daily calcium requirement. This also applies to vitamin D. In winter, when exposure to sunlight might not be enough, it's worth buying vitamin D from the pharmacy.

For which symptoms should you seek help from an orthopedic doctor?

It's simple. For instance, if you understand that something is wrong with your knee - it hurts when walking or you feel discomfort - it's a reason to schedule a consultation.

Often, patients believe that joint pain is the body's reaction to sharp weather changes. Don't self-diagnose.

Only a specialist can find the root cause of the pain and prescribe treatment. Start by visiting your family doctor. They'll assess the situation and, if necessary, schedule a consultation with an orthopedist.

I don't advise patients aged 40-50 to delay visiting a doctor. Problems with joints usually start around this age. The sooner a patient seeks help from an orthopedist, the simpler the treatment process will be. And the better the results will be.

And we also talked about which foods harm joints.