Tips for Reducing Cold-Weather Arthritis Pain
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Tips for Reducing Cold-Weather Arthritis Pain

If you are one of the 58.5 million Americans living with arthritis, there’s a good chance you may not be looking forward to winter.

For many people with various forms of arthritis, cold weather and joint pain go hand in hand. From dropping temperatures that cause the fluid in our joints to thicken, making joints stiff and sensitive. To changes in barometric pressure that can cause the muscles and tendons to expand (putting even more pressure on already tender joints), there are valid reasons for people with arthritis to not love winter.

Short of heading to a warmer climate for the winter months, there are other measures you can take to find relief from winter arthritis flare-ups. Here is what Stanishewski recommends:

1. Get moving: Arthritis doctors are fond of the phrase ‘motion is lotion,’ and with good reason. Exercise is the single best thing you can do to prevent arthritis pain at any time of year. Stationary biking, Tai Chi, Yoga, and swimming are all great winter options. Be sure to include a 5-minute warm up to ready your joints, tendons, and muscles for the workout ahead. 

2. Keep warm: Whether you’re indoors or outside, do what’s necessary to keep yourself warm. Heat works to loosen up muscles and tendons, and helps to ‘thin’ the fluid in your joints so that movement comes easier. If you’re staying inside, use heating pads, electric blankets, and warm baths to keep warm. When venturing out, bundle up—and not just your hands. By keeping your core warm, you’ll keep the blood that goes to your arthritic joints warm and more comfortable. For extended stretches of time outdoors, consider investing in hand warmers.

3. Stay loose: While it’s tempting to stay tucked under a blanket all day, be sure to stretch and move all the parts of your body throughout the day to keep from getting stiff. Wrist and ankle rolls, toe touches, and knee and side bends are all easy and effective ways to keep yourself loose and comfortable.

4. Eat smart:  A Mediterranean style diet is smart.  If you’re diet doesn’t already include these foods, consider adding them:

- Fish - Nuts & seeds - Olive oil
- Beans - Whole grains - Turmeric
- Fruits & vegetables, especially blueberries, cherries, spinach, kale, and broccoli

 

5. Remedy: In the short term, pain-relieving over-the-counter medications can be a source of relief to people with arthritis. Be sure to speak to your doctor about taking any new medication, especially if you’re taking other drugs for arthritis or other conditions.

If your joint pain is interfering with your normal activities, talk with your health care provider about additional pain-relieving strategies.

 

Matthew Stanishewski, DO, is a rheumatologist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center Rheumatology.

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