How to Take Care of Your Osteoarthritis This Winter
With all the joy that winter brings, the colder temperatures can have a negative effect on people suffering from arthritis. Whether you have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, this pain can limit your ability to enjoy any normal activities requiring movement, meaning that following some helpful tips for managing arthritis pain in cold weather can help improve your quality of life. After all, the winter weather doesn’t have to keep you from enjoying the things you’ve always loved to do. So does cold weather affect arthritis directly? And if so, what can you do to help?
These tips for dealing with arthritis pain in winter are important because joint pains and stiffened muscles are common health issues for many older people. For many arthritis patients; pain, swelling, stiffness, fatigue and other common symptoms become much harder to control during winter. Some people feel a greater level of joint pain as the cold weather sets in, but exactly why does joint pain increase in winter?
Here are a few potential reasons why arthritis can flare up in winter:
- ● The body's pain receptors become more sensitive during cold weather.
- ● A drop in atmospheric pressure can cause painful joints as when pressure decreases, tissues swell, increasing the tension between joints causing pain.
- ● The cold weather reduces blood circulation to the fingers, toes and extremities, which only amplifies arthritis pain.
- ● Lower levels of sunlight during winter means lower vitamin D levels which can be a component of weakened bones and joints.
How to Manage Arthritis During the Winter
Winter doesn’t have to be a difficult season if you have arthritis, especially if you live in an area that can have particularly cold temperatures. Here are some tips for managing arthritis pain in cold weather, as well as some potential exercises that can help:
Be Active: Exercise is crucial for people living with arthritis at all times of the year, but staying active in winter has an added importance. Exercise helps ease arthritis pain, and staying active during cold weather can help prevent joints from becoming stiff. There are many programs you can follow at home if you don’t want to brave the icy weather, and MyArthritisRx can help provide you with a specialized knee arthritis treatment plan based on the severity of your affliction. It can be hard to motivate yourself to be active when it’s cold outside, but even some gentle range-of-motion exercises can be helpful towards reducing joint pain.
Stay Hydrated: Staying hydrated is vital for flushing toxins out of your body and keeping joints lubricated. In turn, this will reduce joint pain and inflammation helping you manage your symptoms and flare ups. A typical recommendation would be eight glasses of water a day, however ask your doctor for a specific recommendation based on your symptoms. This doesn’t have to be plain water though, you can add fruits to it like berries, lemon or cut cucumbers to improve the taste and provide further nutritional benefits. Drinks like green or black tea can also be helpful, as well as helping to warm you up in the process.
Dress Appropriately: In winter, some blood flow is diverted from extremities to support critical organs. This results in reduced blood flow to your joints, which can cause stiffness and pain. One way to help prevent this is to wear the right clothing when outdoors. Lightweight woolen clothing is good for close to the skin layers as insulating your core helps warmer blood be sent to the body’s extremities. A fleece or down vest will also keep you warm without adding too much weight. When buying outerwear, consider both functionality, doing buttons and zips can be difficult for people with arthritis, and durability and weight. Bulky or heavy clothing items can further limit movement and even affect balance, something which may already be a problem for those suffering from arthritis.
Keep Warm Indoors: Staying warm is better for your stiff joints as it boosts blood flow and stimulates receptors in your skin. Warmth also relaxes muscles to decrease spasms and reduce overall stiffness. Heat therapy can be achieved in a variety of ways, a warm shower or bath for example, or heating pads and electric blankets. Single-use hand and feet warmers can help reduce the pain in finger joints and can be easily worn in either gloves, pockets, or shoes if needed.
Daily Activities To Consider In The Winter Season
Physical activity helps ease pain, increase strength and flexibility, joint mobility and can have positive mental health benefits which is why it is so important to stay active. In fact, people may look to avoid exercise because they worry it will make arthritis symptoms worse, but this is a big mistake to make. While it's understandable people may be more reticent to exercise in the cold weather, those with joint pain need to remain active.
If snow and ice have made the streets and sidewalks too risky to walk on, or you don’t feel comfortable outside at the minute, there are many physical activities that can be done indoors safely. These include:
- ● Riding a stationary bike
- ● Stretching and performing indoor, low impact exercises
- ● Walking indoors or up and down stairs
- ● Following along with a yoga class online to improve mobility
- ● Swimming in an indoor pool or even just walking in the shallow end
While the prospect of icy sidewalks, snowy paths and cold weather affecting your joints may be reasons to put off taking care of your osteoarthritis, ensuring you are staying active and following some of the tips mentioned in this piece are crucial to help alleviate your pain and improve your quality of life. While it may be tempting to sit around and do nothing until the warm weather comes around, this can lead to more problematic issues later down the line. If you do have any questions or concerns regarding arthritis and the winter weather, talk to your doctor or physical therapist about what you can do to help control your symptoms.