With more people than ever waiting for orthopaedic surgery right now and with the Omicron variant affecting growing numbers across the country, it has never been more important to keep well over the winter months if you have a chronic condition.
A report for the charity Independent Age highlighted that in addition to the 5.6 million people waiting for hospital treatment across the UK, there are millions more who haven’t yet come forward for treatment, either due to concerns about catching Covid or because they don’t want to add to the workload of hard-pressed NHS staff. This backlog is a huge challenge for the NHS but, at a personal level, every one of those patients is likely to be living with worsening pain and/or disability and deteriorating quality of life.
If you are amongst them, there are some things you can do to keep yourself fit and well while you are waiting for treatment. It is particularly important to look after yourself during the winter months when you are at greater risk of becoming ill or getting injured due to wintery conditions. Here are our top tips for staying well this winter:
- Exercise to build strength and flexibility
Although it can be uncomfortable if you have a degenerative condition like osteoarthritis it’s important to keep mobile. Exercising helps to lubricate the joints preventing them from becoming stiff and it also helps to build muscle strength, which can safeguard you against falling. If you incorporate some balancing exercises this can also help to prevent falls. A physiotherapist will be able to devise a tailored exercise regime for you or consider joining an online Yoga or Pilates class. Walking is also a great form of exercise and it has the added benefit of getting you outside which is good for your Vitamin D levels and for your mental health.
- Eat a nourishing diet
This is not only important to help you to say healthy and well but also because studies show that there is a link between poor nutrition and complications after surgery. Ask your orthopaedic surgeon to refer you to a dietician if you need advice about what to eat. Hot meals and drinks will also help you to stay warm during the cold weather and staying well-hydrated is also important. Avoid too much alcohol as it can decrease your body temperature and may increase your risk of falls.
- Stay warm
Heating your home to a temperature of at least 18 degrees can help to ease pain and joint stiffness. An electric blanket, warm shower or hot water bottles can also help. Try and avoid going out in very cold weather.
- Wear the right clothing
If you are going outside, wear several layers of thin clothing which are better at trapping and retaining heat than thicker clothes. A hat can help prevent heat loss through your head and choose footwear with a good grip to help prevent trips and falls.
- Take your medication
Keep on top of your pain by taking regular painkillers. Depending on the severity of your condition, your doctor may prescribe a range of different medication. Be sure to follow the correct dosage and check with your doctor at routine appointments that it is right for the severity of your current condition.
- Use a knee brace
If you are experiencing severe knee pain your orthopaedic surgeon may recommend a knee brace to reduce swelling and improve the stability of your knee joint.
- Get enough sleep
Chronic pain can be very tiring and it may also impact your psychological wellbeing. It is important to rest and get enough sleep to support yourself. If pain is making it difficult to sleep, talk to your doctor who may be able to prescribe medication to help you sleep.
- Follow the latest Covid guidelines
Keep up-to-date with the latest Government guidance on Covid to avoid putting yourself and other people at risk. If you are scheduled to go into hospital, you will be given detailed instructions on what to do before your treatment and while you are in the hospital. It is important that you follow this.
If you would like more information on specific measures you can take to support yourself during the winter months, as well as details about undergoing treatment for orthopaedic conditions, contact us.