Smart tips for skiers and snowboarders for dealing with arthritis on the slopes.
When the snow starts falling, mountains are the first thing that come to mind for many people — specifically zooming down them.
But skiers and snowboarders dealing with arthritis have more concerns than just which resort to choose.
For starters, should you be on the mountain in the first place if you’re dealing with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or other conditions? The answer: It depends on whether you have acute injuries.
Start by having a frank conversation with your doctor about what’s realistic for your very specific case. If you are cleared to hit the slopes, there are a few ways you can stay smart and limit your pain.
1. Warm up for cold-weather sports
I don’t just mean you should warm up the day of your ski or snowboard adventure. You should, of course. Do plenty of stretching. Add some brisk walking in the morning before you buy your lift ticket. If you have access to a gym, a few minutes on an exercise bike will loosen your legs.
But your training should start weeks or months before your trip. If you have arthritis in your knees, for example, ask your doctor or physical therapist about an exercise routine that strengthens the leg muscles that support your knees. Strong thighs and calves can ease the strain that going downhill places on your joints.
The same goes for back pain. If you have osteoarthritis in your lower back, focus on strengthening your abdominal and back muscles before a trip. Doing so is not only good for preventing pain on active snow days but also for managing it in your daily life.
2. Brace yourself — but know you get what you pay for
Those cheap back braces you see at the drugstore may help support you around the house. However, you shouldn’t count on them to do much good for high-impact skiing or snowboarding.
The same caution applies to store-bought knee braces. If you have pain from arthritis and want to pursue snow sports, it’s worth asking about specially designed load-bearing braces designed by an orthotist.
Specially designed braces will cost more. But they also will provide more support and relief for highly active patients.