Anyone who struggles with arthritis knows all about the aches and pains that seem to come along with cold weather. The temperature drops, and like clockwork, you start to feel it in your muscles and joints.
If this sounds all too familiar, you may find yourself wondering, why does cold weather affect my arthritis? This article will break it down for you, along with tips for combating arthritis during months with colder weather.
Why Does Cold Weather Affect Arthritis?
The scientific community is still somewhat divided when it comes to whether or not cold temperatures can exacerbate arthritis pain. There isn’t much conclusive evidence, but some studies show that there may be a link between low barometric pressure, high humidity, and joint swelling.
Many believe that a drop in barometric pressure, which occurs when a cold front is approaching, causes inflammation, pain, and stiffness. A recent study revealed a significant yet modest relationship between pain and relative humidity, pressure, and wind speed. According to the study results, the worst combination of weather variables increases the odds of experiencing pain by around 20 percent in comparison to the average day.
5 Tips for Combatting Cold Weather Arthritis
1. Stay physically active.
One of the best ways you can ease your arthritis pain is to keep moving. Although it may seem counterintuitive—your natural instinct is probably to rest your body when it’s hurting—your joints will thank you for maintaining the requisite amount of activity. They’re actually much more likely to lock up and cause you pain if they aren’t exercised appropriately.
If you’re dealing with arthritis, the right type of exercise can limit pain—think low-impact exercises that don’t put a lot of pressure on your muscles and joints. For instance, biking and swimming are both low-impact exercises that work your muscles and joints without causing painful reverberations that are experienced during activities such as running.
2. Keep yourself warm.
Heat boosts blood flow, flushing out pain-producing chemicals and stimulating receptors in the skin that improve pain tolerance. In addition, warmth relaxes muscles and joints to decrease spasms and reduce stiffness.
There are many ways to stay warm and enjoy the benefits of heat therapy to minimize arthritis pain. Soaking in a hot bath, using a heating pad or an electric blanket, bundling up in layers, and drinking tea or coffee can all be effective at subduing arthritic pain.
3. Make stretching part of your routine.
Incorporating simple stretches into your daily routine can go a long way toward ridding you of joint pain quickly—especially when cold weather flare-ups cause extra tension and discomfort. Stretching helps ease arthritis pain by lubricating joints, improving flexibility, and enhancing range of motion.
Along with basic stretches, practicing yoga and/or pilates can offer significant relief from pain and stiffness, improve function, build muscle strength, and even lower stress in people with arthritis.
4. Get your daily dose of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is produced when bare skin is exposed to sunlight. During the winter months, when days are shorter and colder, many people have a vitamin D deficiency. Studies have shown that low vitamin D levels closely correlate with inflammation and arthritis pain. Consider taking a daily supplement to ensure your vitamin D level is where it should be.
5. Drink plenty of water.
Even mild dehydration can cause people to be naturally more sensitive to pain. If you struggle with arthritis flare-ups during colder months, stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. This can help flush out toxins and alleviate joint pain and stiffness.
Cold weather can be a real pain in the neck, but following these tips can lessen your symptoms so that it doesn’t have to be. Our team at DISC Sports & Spine Center is comprised of pain management specialists with experience treating painful conditions that keep people from living their lives.
If you struggle with chronic pain from arthritis or a similar condition, subscribe to our blog for more information to help you live as pain-free as possible.
ARTICLE CATEGORIES: Patient Education
About the author
discmdgroup DISC Sports and Spine Center (DISC) is one of America’s foremost providers of minimally invasive spine procedures and advanced arthroscopic techniques. Our individually picked, highly specialized physicians apply both established and innovative solutions to diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate their patients in a one-stop, multi-disciplinary setting. With a wide range of specialists under one roof, the result is an unmatched continuity of care with more efficiency, less stress for the patient, and a zero MRSA infection rate. Read more articles by discmdgroup.