Winter is really challenging with a connective tissue disorder. The slipperiness of the snow and ice combines with my joint instability to make walking outside dangerous. And the coldness, indoors and outside, causes my muscles to be even more tense and painful than usual. So here are some things I have found that make it easier to get through the winter:
- Good boots.
Mine have deep tread for good grip, and a thick, firm sole to provide support. They also go up around the ankle, which keeps me warm and provides ankle support so I’m less likely to slip. When I bought them, I made sure they fit well with my wool socks and orthotics.
- Avoid walking outside.
Since I have to have someone drive me anyway, I ask to be dropped off near the door so there’s less icy pavement to worry about.
- Always bring a hat, mittens/gloves, and a scarf.
Sometimes I just bring a lightweight version in the fall, but now that I have muscle pain I find I have to bundle up completely even for short trips.
- Wear layers.
This allows me to be warm enough outside, and not too hot inside. I have been known to leave the house wearing 2 or 3 sweaters at once. Cardigans and full-zip sweaters are easier to take off with sore/stiff joints. Long underwear is really important too. I try to get it loose/stretchy enough that it is easy to get on and off.
- Use hot therapy more often.
This counteracts the fact that even the indoors tends to be colder in the winter.
- Use heat wraps when you leave the house.
These are disposable hot packs, and they are lighter weight than regular hot packs, so they are easy to carry. They are also less conspicuous. I bring a light- or medium- weight scarf that I don’t mind wearing indoors if I think I may need heat on my neck because it helps hold the heat wrap in place and hides it.
I find that if I put my heat wrap in a ziploc bag when I’m not using it (making sure to squeeze all of the air out when I seal it, otherwise the heat wrap will just get too hot and that’s dangerous) I can make it last about a week.
- Use an electric bed heater.
One of the worst things that can happen in the winter is having to get into a cold bed. I sit there shivering with my muscles cramping up pretty much the whole night if I don’t do anything to try to warm up the bed. Putting an electric heating pad in the bed while I get ready for bed makes it a little better, but I find that turning on my electric bed heater before bed is the best. It warms the whole bed, and I can turn it off right before I get in bed and I will stay warm enough the whole night, and not wake up sweating.
WARNING: Leaving an electric blanket, heating pad, or bed heater on all night is dangerous. You can cause your body to overheat/get burnt. There is also a risk of starting a fire.
Sometimes I take a few microwaveable heat packs with me to bed instead. On warmer nights, this is all the heat I need and it’s great for loosening specfic muscles while I sleep.
And that’s about it! Hopefully some of these ideas are helpful. Feel free to share things that help you get through winter in the comments! 🙂