Summer survival tips for arthritis sufferers

Summer survival tips for arthritis sufferers


n May is National Arthritis Month

CHICAGO—For many Illinois residents, summer means vacationing, gardening and outdoor exercising. For arthritis sufferers, these summer activities may be more enjoyable with some special preparation and by following these summer survival tips.

Arthritis affects one in every three people, according to DePuy Orthopaedics, a Johnson & Johnson company, a manufacturer of artificial knee, hip and extremity replacements to treat severe arthritis.

Avoid sunburn

Some arthritis medications cause your skin to be sensitive to sun. Please check with your pharmacist or doctor if you are unsure about whether your medications cause photosensitivity.


Arthritis affects 3.06 million Illinois residents, according to DePuy. For many of them, summer is a peak travel season. Taking vacations is not something that you should stop doing just because you have arthritis. You just need to do some extra planning.

Linda Jenkins, manager of a large travel agency, is also an arthritis sufferer. From her mix of professional experience and her experience as an arthritis sufferer, Jenkins gives many helpful tips on planning a summer trip:

n If you are renting a car, choose an arthritis-friendly car with ample leg room.

n When traveling by car, plan for frequent stops to get out and stretch.

n When traveling by airplane, allow plenty of time between connecting flights. Give yourself time to walk around and stretch your legs. Allow enough time between flights so you can make it from one gate to another without racing through the airport. Don’t carry on more luggage, purses, coats, etc., than you can comfortably cart around the airport between gates.

n On a long flight, get up and walk around. Also, lift your legs and move your wrists while sitting, to keep your muscles from tightening.

n Make sure that your hotels have the correct accommodations for your needs. Some hotels do not have elevators, for example, which could be a problem for people with bad ankles, knees or hips.

n Pre-arrange for carts or wheelchairs at airports that will pick you up from your gate and take you to your destination at the airport.

n Many people with arthritis use multiple medications. Carry these on the plane with you in case your luggage is lost or delayed.

n Consider organized tours designed to accommodate people with health challenges.

n Consider cruises. There is plenty to do, and everything is in close proximity, which limits the amount you will have to walk.

Outdoor exercise

After exercising inside during the winter, it is nice to get out in the sun to do your walking, biking, swimming or whatever activity you enjoy. Exercising outside, however, increases your chance of suffering heat exhaustion or heat stroke, so take precautions. Exercise in the early morning or late evening hours when it is cooler. Morning is a great time to get a good stretch and jump-start your joints. When exercising, remember to start slowly, and gradually increase the time each day. Some outdoor exercising tips include:

n Drink lots of water.

n Pace yourself.

n Wear cool, lightweight clothing.

n Make sure your shoes are comfortable and lightweight.

Another warm-weather exercise tip is to consider the benefits of swimming—ideal for people with most types of arthritis. It enhances both strength and cardiovascular fitness, involves the entire body, and can keep you cool. Consult your physician prior to beginning any exercise program.

Around your home

Along with travel and outdoor exercise, summertime also means gardening and yard work for many arthritis sufferers. To enjoy your backyard and avoid unnecessary aches and pains, listen to your body. Stop at the first sign of discomfort. Other tips include:

n Wear a carpenter’s apron for your gardening tools. This way you won’t have to hunt for them, walk back and forth to get them or carry them in your hands.

n Use smart tools. Choose long handles on rakes and other tools to reduce bending. Special large-grip handles reduce strain on the wrists.

n Use lightweight lawn carts with large wheels to move materials.

n Avoid lifting and carrying things yourself.

n Sit rather than stoop. There are a variety of seats, scooters and benches for gardeners.

n Change positions frequently and avoid positions that put strain on your back.

n Get help. Recruit family members, or hire a young person in your neighborhood.

By planning ahead and pacing yourself, you can enjoy summer despite your arthritis. For more information about arthritis or to find an arthritis specialist in your area, visit or

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