Health & Medical Rheumatoid Arthritis

Going on a Picnic With Arthritis

Updated June 08, 2015.

Some people with severe arthritis may become housebound because of pain and other physical limitations. But, sometimes being housebound is as much due to a person's mindset as their actual physical limitations. In other words, avoiding social situations and choosing isolation over a fun gathering is a choice. Some people believe they can't participate, when actually they could if they anticipated problems and found solutions.

Warmer weather has set in. It's what many call "picnic weather". May, June, July, and August are peak months for picnics -- best celebrated with an outdoor barbecue or outing at a park. Does the thought of a picnic make you happy -- or does it make you shudder? There's no reason to shudder. With a little preparation, you can get yourself ready to enjoy a picnic. I've compiled 10 bits of advice that should help.

1 - Check out the location before the day of the picnic. Make sure the location is accessible. Are you able to get to the area where there are picnic tables and grills? Are there restroom facilities? It's stress-relieving to see the lay of the land ahead of time.

2 - Plan to rest the day before and the day after the event. Do not schedule other appointments or make other plans for those days. You will be tired and perhaps have a flare of arthritis symptoms after being outdoors and interacting with family and friends. Be kind to yourself and realize that you will need some extra rest.

3 - On the day of the picnic, take pain medications (if you use them) about one hour before leaving your house. This will allow the medication to get into your system and help to control your pain. You should have a pill box with you, as well, in case you need to take other medications while at the picnic.

4 - Consider using mobility equipment, such as a cane, walker, wheelchair, or scooter, even if you don't use it every day. Take a raised toilet seat along if there are facilities where you could use it. Obviously, some parks are more remote than others. Don't shy away from the equipment because it makes you look or feel more disabled. Do what you need to do to get you to and through the picnic safely.

5 - Let others do the heavy lifting. Carrying ice chests, portable chairs, and items for fun activities is not your assignment. If you don't like to ask for help, bite your lower lip and get through it. You cannot risk hurting yourself. Joint protection is the way to go on the day of the picnic.

6 - Protect yourself from the sun. Use sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and shade trees to shield yourself. Many people with arthritis are sensitive to the sun, often due to medications they take.

7 - Stay hydrated. Be sure you have enough to drink (preferably water) before, during, and after the picnic.

8 - Keep the menu simple. It goes without saying, foods that are already prepared or easy to grill are optimal. Keep the work on site and confusion to a minimum. Bring along a special dessert or treat that you and others at the picnic will remember and look forward to at future outings.

9 - If your arthritis is severe, you likely won't be able to play badminton, softball, or soccer. Stay involved, though, by asking to be scorekeeper or the photographer. If that's not possible, bring along a book you have been anxious to read. The point is that you don't want to become bored just because you are on the sidelines.

10 - If it has been years since you picnicked, you may have to work at not feeling intimidated. Perhaps you can start out at a park that is close to home. Prove to yourself that you can do this and then you will be inclined to branch out.

The Bottom Line


By anticipating problems and being prepared, you can enjoy outings with family and friends. Fight the urge to decline invitations. Don't allow arthritis to build walls around you.

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