The chill in the air that rolls in with the winter months also brings a wave of arthritis patients discussing increased pain in their joints. Many arthritis patients swear they can predict weather changes simply by the joint pain they experience, and this can be amplified in cold weather. It’s not just an old wives’ tale, either—studies have found that people in barometric pressure chambers felt more aches and pains when the pressure was low.
Regardless of whether a connection exists between joint pain and cold weather, there are ways to manage your arthritis pain if it flares up in the winter.
Dress Warmly and Layer Up
When you’re bundling up to head out into the cold, make sure to add extra layers over your knees, legs and other areas where you’re likely to experience arthritic pain. Especially during an Arkansas winter, you’re likely to experience some drastic temperature changes throughout the day, so make sure you wear layers that allow you to control your comfort level when temperatures do change. Jackets can be shed if it becomes too warm, and even multiple layers of gloves can be removed one by one as needed.
Staying hydrated is important in the hot, dry months of summer, but it’s just as important once temperatures take a dip, too. Even mild dehydration can make you more sensitive to pain, so slipping up on your water intake can cause an arthritis flare-up.
Studies have shown that people with arthritis experience significantly less pain after weight loss through diet and exercise. Talk to your doctor about whether you could benefit from weight loss and what methods would be most helpful for you.
Avoiding the cold outside shouldn’t mean you have to stay dormant all winter, especially since regular exercise is important in managing joint pain. Come up with an indoor exercise plan that allows you to stay both active and warm—use a treadmill or elliptical at home or walk around the mall.
Let Warm Water Comfort You
Heated water is soothing to the joints, so find relief in warm baths or get some exercise by swimming in a heated pool. Make sure you don’t go directly out into the cold after you get out of the water, though—give your body temperature a few minutes to normalize.
Supplement Vitamin D
Arthritis pain can be more sensitive when there are low levels of vitamin D, and a vitamin D deficiency can also raise the risk for osteoporosis. Sunlight is the natural source of vitamin D and you’re less likely to get enough of it during the winter months, so talk to your doctor about supplements or vitamin D-fortified foods.
Try a Glucosamine-Chondroitin Supplement
While no herbal supplements have been proven to provide pain relief for arthritis patients, Dr. Bonita S. Libman, professor of medicine and division chief of rheumatology and clinical immunology at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, found that her arthritis patients reported relief from taking these supplements. “What I tell my patients is, if they can afford to pay for it and they want to give it a try, it seems to be a low-risk therapy for pain,” she said.
Add Fish Oil
Omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish oil, help reduce the level of inflammation in the joints. The Arthritis Foundation recommends up to 2.6 grams of fish oil capsules twice a day to reduce arthritis pain. Make sure to talk to your doctor if you want to try omega-3s, as they can increase your risk for bruising or bleeding.
Consider Acetaphminophen or NSAIDs
You may prefer to manage your arthritis pain with lifestyle changes rather than medication, but you may want to take an over-the-counter pain reliever if your pain increases with cold weather. To avoid side effects, take the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time, and always consult with your doctor first.
Get a Massage
Massages are not just for indulgence—they can also help reduce your arthritis pain. Studies have shown that getting an hour-long massage once a week for at least eight weeks can reduce pain. So go ahead and treat yourself—it’s medically justifiable to do so.
If you’d like to go for a non-traditional treatment, acupuncture can help reduce pain. Studies have found that you may also find it relaxing and leave feeling generally healthier.
To learn more about what you can do to manage your arthritis in the upcoming winter months, visit https://www.everydayhealth.com/arthritis/arthritis-pain-relief-for-winter-weather.aspx.