Arthritis can cause stiffness, pain, deformity and loss of function of the joints in your body. Physical therapy can help to decrease pain and restore mobility with the use of exercises and modalities.

A physical therapist can instruct you in exercises to help increase flexibility and improve muscle strength around the joint. Working daily on a home exercise program, will help to prevent loss of the use of your joints and preserve muscle strength.
If you suffer from arthritis, see your local physical therapist to create a home program to help improve your quality of life.

How To Use A Heating Pad Safely

The colder weather is upon us and many people have an increase in chronic joint or muscle pain. Are you using heat or rubs to treat your pain? If you find relief with these items it is important that you know how to use them safely.

A hot pack can provide pain relief to the chronic aching joints that accompany arthritis. Here are some tips on safe use of a heating pad.

• Do not sleep with a heating pad or you may get a burn.
• Only use a heating pad for 15-30 minutes per hour.
• Be extra careful if you are using a heating pad on an area of your body where you don’t have as much feeling and avoid heating numb areas. If you can’t feel the heat as strongly, you might not realize if
you burn yourself.
• Placing towels between the heating pad and your skin can help reduce the risk of burns.
• If you are using topical rubs and ointments like BenGay, only use after applying a heating pad.
• If you have an acute injury (one which is less than 3 days old), you should use ice instead of heat. Heat is appropriate for chronic injuries or pain more than 3 days old.

If you find that your chronic pain is limiting your normal functional activities, or if your acute injury doesn’t begin to get better with ice and rest, visit your local Physician or Physical Therapist.

Why Do My Joints Ache When the Weather Gets Cold?

Many patients come to physical therapy asking ‘why’ – why they have increased pain when it rains, snows, or just when the weather gets cold.  This question has been researched minimally and considering the amount of patients that report these findings, one would think there would be more research on this topic.

The main theories are as follows:

1. Change in Barometric Pressure – This theory is based on a study of a balloon in a Barometric Chamber.  The Barometric pressure is decreased and the balloon increases in size.  Therefore, the drop in pressure can similarly cause tissues around the joints to swell.  Because a drop in barometric pressure precedes a storm, patients can ‘predict’ when a stormfront is approaching.  Typically, patients with arthritis or a previous joint injury are the patients that report these weather-related findings.

2. Psychological – Another theory mentions that people tend to feel pain in their joints during bad weather, rather than preceding bad weather.  The theory claims that people are less likely to feel the pain on warm, sunny days.  This concept could be due to the increased release of endorphins, with increased sun light and people mentally feel better when it is nicer outside.

3. Humidity – This is my personal theory.  I believe patient’s joints have increased lubrication when there is more humidity in the air.  Just like a hinge requiring lubrication to move in a fluid motion, our joints require constant lubrication to move without restriction and pain.  Therefore, when the humidity decreases, there is a decrease in lubrication of our joints, which in turn causes pain.  This is why most people with arthritis like to move down south to enjoy year-round warmer weather.

In summary, there is no definitive reason why people report increased pain at their joints when the weather changes.  It is suprising how little research is done on this topic.  I believe there is validity for people feeling the change in weather in their joints; however, there does not seem to be a clear reason why it is experienced.  Thoughts?