Written by James Fleming
Winter is coming, and that’s often not a good sign for folks with arthritis. Cold and/or damp weather typically has a pretty profound effect on the joint pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.
If you find yourself dreading the winter months because of what the cold weather does to your body, keep reading. These five tips will help you manage your arthritis pain and stay comfortable and sane as winter rolls around.
Why the Cold Makes Arthritis Pain Worse
There are a couple of reasons why cold weather can make arthritis pain and stiffness worse. One of the main explanations, though, is the change in barometric pressure (the weight of the air) that occurs when the temperature drops.
When it gets cold outside, the barometric pressure tends to decrease. This drop in pressure, in turn, can cause the tissues in the joints to become swollen. The swollen tissues then put pressure on the nerves in the body that control pain signals.
How to Manage Arthritis Pain During Winter
Now that you know why it is that the winter tends to make your arthritis pain worse, it’s time to explain some specific remedies you can utilize to decrease that pain. These five methods are great for managing discomfort and helping you stay comfortable all winter long.
- Layer Up
Both indoors and outdoors, make it a point to dress warmly and wear plenty of layers to help trap body heat. It’s especially important to cover up the extremities (head, hands, and feet).
Some tips for dressing warmly and staying comfortable include:
- Wear a hat, beanie, or headband
- Wear a scarf to keep your neck warm
- Wear thick, waterproof socks, especially when you’re going outside
- Wear gloves
You can also benefit from wearing compression clothing. Items like leggings, socks, and arthritis gloves relieve pain with mild compression. These items improve your blood flow and will keep you nice and warm.
- Stay Inside to Exercise
Research shows that exercise can be very beneficial for people who suffer from arthritis. However, when the weather’s cold and your joints are aching, the last thing you probably want to do is lace up your sneakers and go for a run.
Try to find ways to exercise indoors instead of braving the harsh winter weather. Good at-home indoor exercise options include:
- At-home aerobics videos
- Household chores like mopping and vacuuming
- Dancing while listening to music
- Stretching and doing body weight strength training exercises
- Climbing the stairs
- Take a Vitamin D Supplement
Many studies have found a link between low vitamin D levels and arthritis pain. During the winter, it’s not easy to get sufficient amounts of vitamin D, which your body makes when it’s exposed to the sun.
Vitamin D plays a major role in bone strength and muscle health. Vitamin D also has anti-inflammatory benefits. As you probably know, inflammation is at the heart of arthritis and arthritis pain.
If you tend to experience more severe joint pain in the winter, try taking a vitamin D supplement to help boost your levels.
- Take a Warm Bath
Sometimes, the most important thing to do when you’re struggling with arthritis pain is to simply kick back and relax. Soak in a warm bathtub to ease your stiff joints and promote better blood flow.
You can make your bath extra luxurious with Epsom salts and essential oils. Peppermint oil is especially good for joint pain since it provides a nice cooling sensation that distracts from your discomfort.
- Stay Hydrated
Finally, be sure to drink plenty of water during the winter. When it’s cold outside, it’s easy to skip over your eight glasses of water a day and turn to drinks like hot chocolate and coffee instead.
You can still have these staple winter beverages, of course. However, it’s also important to make sure you’re staying hydrated with water, too.
Research shows that dehydration can make you more sensitive to pain.
If you can’t bear to drink cold water, remember that there’s nothing wrong with drinking it warm. You can also get your hydration from herbal tea or naturally flavored water, too.