Christmas can be stressful at the best of times but when you’re coping with the pain of arthritis on top of everything else, it can really put a dampener on the celebrations.
So, we thought we’d compile a list of our best Festive stressbusters for arthritis sufferers. Try these simple ideas to help you enjoy the Christmas holidays, whether you’re spending it at home with the family or jetting off on holiday…
1. Get outside and move your body
As tempting as it is to grab the chocolates and hunker down in front of the TV over Christmas, it won’t do your arthritic symptoms any good. It is important to keep moving your muscles to prevent stiffness and loss of mobility, particularly during the cold winter months.
Try doing some simple stretches at home. Or, wrap up warmly and take a walk outside. Not only will this help to prevent stiffness, but it will also be good for your mental health and wellbeing, and it will help you to stay fit.
2. Keep an eye on your diet
We’re not suggesting you avoid festive treats altogether but as you consider a second helping of Christmas pudding, it’s worth remembering that too much rich food and fat can exacerbate the pain of arthritis.
Be sensible about what you’re eating and make sure that you continue to get plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein and wholegrains.
3. Go steady on the alcohol
OK, we realise this one might be a bit annoying at this time of year, but the fact is that alcohol can have detrimental effects on our overall health and wellbeing. Although recent reports have suggested that drinking alcohol may help to reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and decrease severity of the disease, the NHS has warned that the study (by the University of Sheffield and the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, published in Rheumatology) has limitations.
It (the NHS) advises that drugs taken for the condition can have a toxic effect on the liver and has warned against mixing them with alcohol. Moderate alcohol consumption can reduce biomarkers of inflammation, including c-reactive protein, interleukin-6 and TNF-alpha receptor 2.
However, the key to this is the word “moderate”, which experts interpret as less than a glass of wine or beer daily. If you already have arthritis, alcohol may not mix well with medication prescribed for joint pain and may make you more susceptible to liver damage.
It can be a particular problem for people with gout as alcohol contains purines, which can trigger a gout attack.
If you choose to drink alcohol over Christmas, try to do so in moderation and be careful to check the instructions on any medication you are taking.
4. Get enough sleep
Routine tends to go out of the window over Christmas. You may find yourself staying in unfamiliar surroundings, socialising more than normal or eating too much rich food. All of this can play havoc with your sleep.
However, disrupted sleep will have a detrimental effect on your wellbeing and can exacerbate depression, which is linked to chronic pain. It is important, if you can, to get enough sleep over the Festive period, which may mean factoring in a few early nights to compensate for time spent socialising.
5. Pace yourself
Most of us tend to overdo it at Christmas, but wearing yourself out by shopping for gifts, cooking, partying or visiting will not be good for your general health and wellbeing and could lead to an increase in symptoms.
It’s a good idea to let your friends and family know what you do and don’t feel able to do and explain to them that you need to pace yourself to avoid becoming unwell.
6. Look after yourself
Of course, this applies all year around not only at Christmas. But it can be easy to forget to look after yourself in the rush and excitement of the Festive season.
Whatever things you do for the rest of the year that helps you to manage your symptoms, remember to continue doing them and make time for yourself in all of the festivities.
Whatever you do this Christmas, we wish you a very happy one. And, if you are experiencing chronic pain and loss of mobility, maybe make 2020 the year that you see a specialist to discuss your options.