The sky is a wide expanse of blue and the snow-topped mountains around you beckon. You complete run after run while the wind whips past your face and you feel the exhilaration of your body gliding down the powdery slopes. You loved every minute of it and would have skied all day if your body had not started to say enough is enough. Nothing can spoil your day or vacation like pain. Sure, you can hang up your gear for the day but how do you make sure your arthritis doesn’t keep you on lodge lockdown for the rest of the trip?
The discomfort and pain associated with arthritis can be significant but doesn't have to keep you on the couch. Many people with arthritis ski and use physical activity as a way to feel better. Physical activities like skiing can actually reduce discomfort, fatigue, and improve mobility.
If you have arthritis, adequate preparation for ski season can prevent serious injury and help you get the most out of your trip. Once you hit the slopes, there are things you can do to stay safe and comfortable.
Before You Ski
Utilize regular workouts to strengthen muscles before you hit the slopes; weakened muscles from past injuries or inactivity can flare without proper strength building. In general, it is recommended that you have 6-8 weeks of physical conditioning before you ski.
Don’t ski if you’re sick. Your immune system activity can make your muscles ache and zap energy. If you get sick, even just a simple cold, recover completely before skiing.
Schedule a check-up with your general practitioner or rheumatologist. Skiing can takes its toll and injuries are not uncommon. A thorough check-up before you ski can prevent more serious damage.
Just in case you are not feeling well or become injured, remember to pack any helpful medications, your insurance card and doctor’s information.
During Your Trip
Prepare for the ski slope conditions and weather as these may change how you ski and how quickly you will recover.
Take good care of yourself. As tempting as it might be on vacation, avoiding heavy alcohol use and staying hydrated can reduce inflammation and help you perform better. If pain occurs during skiing, immediate rest is recommended to prevent a worsening of symptoms.
Use the right equipment. Poor fitting boots can cause foot and ankle pain. Wearing good quality ski boots with appropriate insoles can reduce joint strain. Braces, when needed, can significantly improve joint stability.
Don’t forget your SPF. Many arthritis medications can leave you extra sensitive to sunlight. Wear sun block with an SPF (sun protection factor) and reapply frequently.
Practice Active Rest
The term "active rest" may seem a bit contradictory but adequate rest helps prevent injury and gives your body the opportunity to recover. Active rest is low intensity exercise and activity that helps the body recover faster than sleep or inactivity. Low intensity exercise delivers healing oxygen to the muscles, flushes out lactic acid and improves relaxation.
Active rest can include things like:
•Leisurely bike ride
•Sports massage therapy
•Hot tub or bath
If you do get injured, seek appropriate care. Use heat and cold for some immediate relief. Heat may relieve aches, stimulate blood circulation and help irritated tissues heal. Applying something cold to a joint will reduce pain and numb the area. If you have poor circulation, diabetes, or nerve disease, ask your doctor before applying heat or cold. Over the counter anti-inflammatory agents can help reduce pain and swelling. If you don’t get better soon, or suffer a more serious injury, see your physician.