Getting Through the Cold Months With AS

Last updated: December 2022

Having ankylosing spondylitis, you feel like you are a human barometer sometimes.

It is getting colder, I can feel it in my hips, back (insert wherever you feel it or all the places you feel it). For me, living in the prairies in Canada means that we have many more months of cold than we do of warm weather.

Cold making things worse?

There are many times that I am convinced that the cold is making things so much worse for me. Everything is more stiff, joints are more painful, my mood, mental health, motivation it can all be sucked out of me with the cold. However, I have found some things that do work to help me get through the cold and those -40C temps.

Look at the bright side

There is a lot of be said about your outlook on the weather and the cold, if you are like me and you are not able to move to a climate that works better for you, then learning to love the winter or tolerate it is essential. This can be done. I have found that on the days when I hear -20C to -45C I can have a hard time reminding myself that if I dress appropriately and take measures that it will be ok.

I have an added challenge with the cold as I am totally blind so I don’t get to drive anywhere. I have to walk and take public transit, so I spend a lot of time out in the elements and learned very quickly over the years what to do and not to do.

Clothing matters

The biggest way to get to a point where you don’t loath the cold is to dress for the weather. This sounds so simple and like common sense but so many people dress for fashion and not practicality for the situation. When you get cold to the bone because you are not wearing the proper clothing that is going to make you feel stiffer and increase your pain. I know this from experience.

Make sure that you are wearing lined boots or shoes, and the most important piece of clothing you own is your jacket. Make sure you have a jacket that is made for the climate. If you invest in a jacket that will keep you warm no matter what the weather throws your way it makes all the difference. I find keeping my torso warm helps with the neck and back pain.

Next if you are going to be outside for more than going from the car to a building and you are walking, invest in a pair of snow pants or lined jeans or leggings. Keeping your legs and hips warm again like the torso I find helps to keep my hip and SI joint pain and stiffness more manageable.

Keeping my neck warm I learned a long time ago made a huge difference for me. I have since then always warn a soft cozy scarf and or a neck warmer. This has allowed me to be outside longer and get to where I need to and not hate every single moment.

Heat it up

When it is cold outside so many times my joints and body is so stiff and more painful and I have found in the winter months I use heat more than any other time of the year. I have many different heating pads or various shapes and sizes. I really like the one that sits on my shoulders and up my neck and down on the back of my shoulders. I also have a long extra large one that I really like for my hips as I sit ion our home.

When I am in the car with my husband I have been loving our heated seats, this has been fairly new for me and having access to this. If you are able to have heated seats and you live in a cold climate I encourage you to use them. They are like the perfect built in heating pad it is amazing. It makes being in the car so much more comfortable and toasty warm as well.

Keep moving

If you live in an especially cold climate with lots of snow it can be so easy to just stay indoors and wait for the days to get warmer. I know for me this is often what I would prefer to do. I have found that finding ways to keep moving even just walking has helped. On the days that I just can’t do it outside I have found going to an indoor track, mall, or using a treadmill to be effective. Even a 15 to 20 minute walk helps loosen things up if you are able.

The cold can be hard on us all physically, emotionally and mentally what are your favorite things to get through it?

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