If you have arthritis, you know that when cold weather approaches, your joint pain increases. Winter weather is often to blame for arthritis pain. While cold weather does not cause arthritis, it can exacerbate it. This pain occurs because your body is more sensitive to pain when it gets cold. The cold slows blood circulation and can cause muscle spasms, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Some say they can detect an oncoming storm when their joints start aching. This aching is due to changes in barometric pressure and temperature causing muscles and tendons to expand while thickening the fluid that lubricates your joints. The result is increased pain and many people feeling like meteorologists!
There are a few things you can do to reduce arthritis pain this winter.
- Keep warm. Staying warm is more than just layering up or adding an extra blanket at night. Think of it as a therapy to reduce tension in your muscles and tendons and thin out the fluid that lubricates your joints.
- Exercise is always good, but it's essential to reduce arthritis pain. When your body is moving, it becomes more flexible and less stiff. Exercise can also give you more energy and release hormones that help reduce arthritis pain.
- Stretch to loosen your joints, warm them up, and prevent injury. Simple activities like rolling your wrists and ankles, stretching your fingers, and knee bends are great beginning exercises.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, nuts, and seeds, and limit sugar and carbohydrates. The goal of your diet is to reduce inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids are not a cure for arthritis but can help reduce inflammation.
- Check your Vitamin D level. Vitamin D needs sunlight to activate it and it is especially critical to get sunlight in the winter when we spend more time indoors. Low Vitamin D contributes to bone loss that can also worsen arthritis pain. Talk to your provider about checking your Vitamin D level.
- Maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce pain and stiffness since it reduces pain in weight-bearing joints like the knees, hips, and spine.
Winter can be a painful time of year for people with arthritis but consider it a diagnostic test for your body. When you experience pain in one joint or another, that's like a ‘check engine light’ in your car. When that light goes on, take a step back, examine what's causing the pain, and then take proactive measures to fix it.
Mount Nittany Health can be your partner in dealing with arthritis pain and other rheumatologic conditions. We recently opened the Mount Nittany Health Rheumatology practice on Green Tech Drive in State College to work closely with primary care providers. A healthcare provider within Mount Nittany Health can evaluate your healthcare needs and if necessary, make a referral to rheumatology.
For more information, visit mountnittany.org/Rheumatology.