February is cold. Here in Toronto, the first two weeks of February are typically the coldest of the year. For many of us with illnesses such as arthritis, or chronic injuries (old sprains, herniated discs), the cold weather also means extra aches and pains. Keeping warm is an important self care activity at this time, as being able to move without pain means we’re more likely to get up and do things, which will make us feel more energized and less depressed and anxious.
Heat is also an important part of the recovery process for injuries such as torn tendons and ligaments, which have poor blood flow, as it draws blood to the areas being warmed and helps promote new tissue growth.
How to add heat? Warm baths or showers always help, but you can’t stay in the bath forever. Exercise, even gentle movement such as tai chi, keeps muscles and nerves warm and loose. But if you’re hurting bad you might not have it in you to get up at all. This is why I believe that every household should have a variety of heating pads.
The easiest ones to use are the microwaveable shaped bags full of flax seed. There are plenty of places to buy these, but they’re cheap and easy to make. I recommend flax seed over other fillers such as rice, as they hold the heat better, and don’t dry out. Add some lavender flowers for some aromatherapy as well, if you like. If you make your own heating pad, make sure that it is cotton, linen or another natural fibre, as synthetic fabrics can catch fire when you’re heating the bag in the microwave. (This actually happened to me.) I now make my bags out of a cheap muslin cotton and then also make a cover for each that can be removed when the bag is in the microwave, or for washing (hot necks = sweaty), or if you want to sprinkle some water on the cover to create a more soothing wet heat.
Obviously you can also turn up the thermostat, but if your furnace creates a dry heat (and most do) consider running a humidifier on low, for at least part of each day. This won’t do much to keep you warm, but it will help with the “February flakes” (that dry itchy skin that most people get over the winter), will keep household static down, and will help fend off winter nosebleeds (yep, it’s a dry air thing) in those that are susceptible.