Fall is upon us and winter is just around the corner. The changing of the weather usually signals the coming of the holiday season. TV news reporters warn viewers of driving safety, and taking flu shots. But below are some tips and pointers to think about that are more related to physical therapy:
1) If you have arthritis, you will hurt more as the weather turns colder. There are no definitive studies that prove that this is true, but folks from all walks of life and all cultures can confirm: their joints ache when the weather turns cold. To combat the joint stiffness, try heating pads and moist hot packs. Some stores sell flaxseed packs that you can microwave (like this one, makes a great gift!) that emit moisture that can penetrate deeper into tissue. If you have arthritis in your hands, it is worth making an investment on a paraffin wax bath. Dip your hands into the wax and let it dry for 9 layers and let the heat lubricate your joints. If none of the above remedies work, remain active with cardio - run, walk or swim your way to joint health!
2) For those who have neck pain, go easy on the heavy scarves. One thing that many folks don't realize is that heavy scarves and neckwear can actually affect your posture greatly. Sometimes just being cold would be enough to make you contract up into a ball, but wearing a heavy scarf would also make this worse by weighing your neck down. Instead, try a turtleneck for warmth. The same goes for heavy coats with heavy or thick lapels in the front - all of that weight goes on your shoulders, and could exacerbate that forward head posture.
3) For those who have shoulder pain - consider an alternative to your heavy wool coat. Wool coats, although they look nice, tend to restrict arm activity and proper biomechanics when the arm is lifted. Don't believe me? Try in front of a mirror while wearing a coat: Lift your arm up like you're changing a light bulb. The shoulder pads typically constrict scapular motion, and the shortening sleeves make you look goofy so folks shrug their shoulders to lift their arms up instead - all bad biomechanics if you are trying to heal from shoulder pain. Instead, try a flexible sweater or a puff jacket that doesn't constrict movement.
4) For those of you who have little ones. BE WARY of athletic shoes with slippery foam soles. Recently in the last year, several athletic manufacturers (some that live near us here in Portland, ahem!) have been manufacturing and designing their shoes with a very light foam sole. Most of them are colored white, but they can come in different colors as well. They are light weight and usually have grooves in them for friction. After informally interviewing an athletic shoe designer, I found out that these soles cut costs on manufacturing as rubber is a much more expensive alternate. The shoe designer also told me that consumers are opting for lighter weight soles now, thinking that this would affect their running speed - and hence the emergence of this fad. Though most of us walk and run on asphalt and concrete, these soles won't bother adults very much, but are a huge danger on the metal playgrounds - especially when wet. I learned this the hard way with my daughter. So please heed this tip: when picking shoes for your children, look for partial or full rubber soles. They offer far better traction in most conditions, and will give them the stopping power they need when sprinting down a playground plank at full warp speed.
5) Speaking of warp speed, Runners, be careful out there! With slippery fallen leaves and wet pavements, leaves obscuring slipper manholes, dark mornings and dark afternoons, be aware and be careful where you stride! Make yourself visible with light-reflecting or blinking gear, and reduce your speed a little so you don't slip and slide on foliage. It also doesn't hurt to keep your hands free so you can catch yourself in a fall.