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Tips for Dealing with Arthritis Pain in Winter

12/20/2019

How many times have you sworn that a storm was coming because your arthritis pain was flaring up? How many times has a bone-chilling cold caused your joints to swell and get inflamed with pain and stiffness?

Winter weather can be especially tough for those who suffer from arthritis, and there could be some truth to the old wives’ tale that aching joints can be an indicator of a change in weather. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation even cites studies that show lower barometric pressure caused more aches and pains for people in barometric pressure chambers.

Arthritis can be classified as either inflammatory or non-inflammatory.  Inflammatory arthritis features inflammatory white blood cells in the joint fluid.  Forms of inflammatory arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, lupus arthritis, gout, and many others.  Forms of non-inflammatory arthritis include osteoarthritis, arthritis of thyroid disease, arthritis after injury and many others. Studies have shown that cold weather can affect both inflammatory and non-inflammatory arthritis.

With winter in full swing, cold weather pain and arthritis can be uncomfortable and affect your quality of life. The cold doesn’t cause arthritis, but it can increase joint pain, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Here are some great tips to deal with arthritis pain during the winter months.

1. Stay warm and layer up

Keeping those achy joints warm is a top way to reduce the pain. Layer up with gloves to protect your hands and add extra layers to knees, elbows or other achy sites. If it gets too warm, you can always peel those layers off one by one. Swimming in a heated pool or soaking in a hot tub can also provide relief from the discomfort of cold weather. 

2. Eat a healthy diet

Overindulging in rich and sweet food during the holidays could cause some people with rheumatoid arthritis to have a flare-up. Holidays are especially suspect because of all the desserts, rich gravy, processed meats and more. In addition to arthritis pain, bad food choices also increase the risk for other health issues like osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. 

3. Get your stress under control

While no studies confirm that stress irritates arthritis, it can cause people to overtax their bodies. Running around, shopping, frantic cooking and mental stress all take their toll on the body, which could cause pain in your joints to increase. Practice deep breathing, meditation, yoga or other ways to relax and slow down.

4. Stay active and exercise

Exercise is one of the most helpful ways to deal with arthritis. Physical activity helps increase strength and flexibility, boosts energy and helps ease the pain. The Arthritis Foundation recommends adults with arthritis with no other severe health conditions engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week and two strength-training sessions a week. Read our blog about navigating the gym with arthritis pain

5. Consider wearing compression gloves

These gloves work much in the way as compression socks by squeezing the joints to encourage additional blood flow. Some even help trap heat so your hands stay warm. If you don’t have compression gloves, choose mittens over gloves since they tend to be warmer.

6. Get your vitamin D

Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is usually produced when the body absorbs sunlight or through diet. During the winter months, it’s especially important to get enough vitamin D. Patients with rheumatoid or other inflammatory arthritis show more severe pain if their vitamin D levels drop. Low vitamin D can also increase sensitivity to pain. Both women and men should aim for 600 IU of vitamin D daily, either with supplements or through foods like fortified cereal or cod liver oil.

7. Skip the soda

Not only is soda full of empty calories and tons of sugar, but studies show that sugar can cause inflammation in your body. Try sipping on lemon water, hot tea or other low-sugar alternatives.

8. Sleep it off

Getting a full and restful night of sleep does wonders for your body and can help you deal better with arthritis. Studies show poor sleep is linked to fatigue, more pain and higher levels of depression in those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis. 

9. Speak up

 If you are in more pain than usual, talk to your family and doctor about it. Pain can cause depression and anxiety, especially over the holidays, and sharing what you are going through could be beneficial for your state of mind. Plus, it helps your friends and loved ones know your limitations.

10. Make your life easier

With all the neat, assistive gadgets out there, there’s no reason to strain your joints. Use electric jar openers and can openers to give your hands a break. Other assistive devices that ease the stress on your joints include Velcro fasteners and buttoning aids, no-hands frames for embroidery, ergonomic chairs in the workplace, wide key holders for your car’s ignition and card shufflers for card games, to name just a few.

 

If you suffer from arthritis or suspect you may have arthritis, you’re not alone. You may be one of the nearly 50 million Americans suffering from some form of arthritis. INTEGRIS can be your partner in the battle against arthritis and arthritis pain. INTEGRIS arthritis specialists have the advanced training and expertise you need to get you back on your feet and doing the things you love most.

 

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