If you or anyone in your life has arthritis, you’ve likely made or heard theories about the connection between arthritis and the weather. Specifically, many people with arthritis notice increased pain when the weather gets colder in the winter months. But does science back this claim up?
Interestingly, research hasn’t been able to explain the connection between colder weather and worsened arthritis pain yet, but there are some explanations as to why some people with arthritis suffer from increased pain and stiffness in the winter. For instance, as cold weather rolls in, barometric pressure drops; this sudden lower pressure can cause joints to swell, putting more pressure on the nerves around them, increasing pain in people with arthritis.
If you suffer from aching joints in cold weather, we’ve put together a list of tips to help make this winter less painful.
Keep Yourself Warm
One of the most common tips for treating winter arthritis pain is bundling up. When exposed to cold, our bodies have a harder time circulating blood, especially to our fingers and toes, which can increase pain in those areas. Because of this, it’s best to wear warm winter clothes and dress in layers, especially over areas when you’re particularly prone to arthritis pain, like your hands, feet, knees, and legs. And speaking of bundling up, consider wearing compression gloves or socks. Compression tools like these work by squeezing your joints, which encourages better circulation and prevents inflammation.
Inside, though, it may not be as comfortable to wear a big winter jacket or many layers of clothes. Luckily, you can still stay cozy and warm with things like blankets and heating pads, or if you’re feeling especially luxurious, a nice, warm bath! Whether you’re inside or outside, and no matter how you choose to keep yourself warm this winter, bundling up is a great way to help ease your arthritis pain.
Stress can be ever-present in our lives, and when you have arthritis, your stress levels may be even higher. Unfortunately, this stress often worsens arthritis pain. When we feel stressed out, our body releases chemicals that raise our heart rate, tense our muscles, and prepare us to fight or flee. These chemicals also trigger our immune system’s inflammatory response. Inflammation makes pain associated with arthritis much worse, meaning many people experience arthritis flare-ups when dealing with stress.
The good news is, this gives you a great incentive to treat yourself to some relaxation. One way to reduce stress is to slow down and take it easy, either during your daily activities or during a specific period of the day you take to sit quietly and breathe deeply. Meditation, acupuncture, and massage therapy can also help you relax, in turn reducing your pain. If possible, you could also try treating yourself to a special assistive device, like an electric can opener. These devices help with various day-to-day tasks, allowing your body to rest, resulting in less pain and less stress.
Another way to reduce stress is by reaching out to those around you. If the winter causes you to experience more pain than you normally do, try talking to your family and friends. Pain can cause depression and anxiety, and it may also keep you from participating in social events, leading to feelings of loneliness. Luckily, sharing your experiences with those closest to you can help ease these feelings, and it can also help your friends and family better understand your limitations.
Eat Smart, Stay Active
On top of being beneficial to your overall health, eating well and staying active can also help with your arthritis pain. For instance, a lot of holiday foods can cause arthritis flare-ups—from bountiful dinners to delicious desserts, the holidays are rife with foods that could cause you pain. Added sugars, like those found in soda, ice cream, and even barbeque sauce, have been shown to worsen arthritis symptoms, and so have foods high in salt, like pizza and processed meats. Luckily, there are lots of (opens in a new tab), like fatty fish, garlic, berries, and even olive oils, all of which are great for treating inflammation.
Along with these foods, exercise has also been shown to help relieve arthritis. In fact, exercise is one of the most highly recommended ways to combat arthritis. When we exercise, we increase our strength and flexibility, helping our joints, and our brains also release chemicals that help us feel good and reduce pain. Exercising and eating well may also help you lose weight, which will reduce the pressure on your joints, further relieving your pain.
Visit the Experts at Prima Care
Perhaps the best way to avoid arthritis pain this winter (as well as through the rest of the year!) is to visit our specialists at . Our can help you get the right treatment for your arthritis, including arthritis pain relief medication, easing your pain and making this time of year more enjoyable.
Plus, if you haven’t already, it’s important to get your flu and COVID-19 vaccines. As an autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis makes you more susceptible to contagious illnesses like these. Plus, people with rheumatoid arthritis are at a higher risk of developing complications from these illnesses, making them even more dangerous and even more worth avoiding. Make getting vaccinated a priority this winter to help keep yourself safe.
Make this winter and holiday season as easy and comfortable as possible; take care of yourself by staying warm, reducing stress, eating well, staying active, and visiting your doctors at Prima CARE! or call (744)-375-0504 for more information!