Not a Winter Wonderland

Not a Winter Wonderland

Everyone is prone to getting the winter blues as the temperatures start to drop. For arthritis patients it isn’t simply about longing for the delights of summer. With the winter weather comes an increase in pain and stiffness in joints affected by the arthritis. Despite the fact that there is not much published research which has been conducted to corroborate this, most rheumatologists willing admit that their patients will frequently link cold and wet weather conditions with a worsening of their symptoms. There are studies which support that in barometric chambers with lower pressure increased the level of pain felt by patients. This indicating that more research needs to be carried out in order to understand the mechanisms that drive these increased pain responses as they relate to external environmental cues.

So how do arthritis patients beat their unique winter blues? There are a number of ways to reduce the pain associated with the winter months.

It may seem obvious but dress warmly, adding layers, especially to joints to are afflicted. Layers ensure air is trapped between them acting as additional insulation. Layering can also be important for fluctuating temperatures allowing patients more flexibility in heating up or cooling down. Winter also means slippery surfaces and treacherous journeys, so be safe. Wear solid supportive shoes with good grip and watch out for surfaces that look slick. Avoiding injury to afflicted joints is key in ensuring that you avoid increased pain levels.

Dehydration can lead to increased pain sensitivity. In winter we tend to consume hot drinks like coffee which can at as a diuretic leading to dehydration. A simple fix – ensure you are drinking enough water to compensate for increased caffeine intake. In addition to increasing our coffee and tea intake we tend to eat more in the colder seasons leading to weight gain. If this causes patients to become overweight it can lead to increased pain. So, ensure that while you delve into the winter foods like soups and pastas you increase your physical activity to offset the extra calories. Many patients report significant improvement, even in cold weather if they have lost excess weight.

Exercise boosts our body’s production of synovial fluid which helps to keep joints lubricated. Of course, staying active when you want to avoid the cold outside can be challenging. Ensure before the temperatures start to plummet you have devised an indoor workout plan. Make use of community gyms, if possible, have equipment at home such as stationary bicycles or light weights for resistance training. There are numerous at home exercise apps and videos that are free and easily accessible – why not use these months to learn a new style of dance or take up Pilates?

Warm water is great way to soothe aching joints. A heated pool is an excellent tool to increase physical activity whilst providing rapid relief. A warm bath will also do the trick but make sure you allow your body temperature to normalize before heading out into the cold.

A reduction in day light can mean we are more prone to vitamin- D deficiency. Low levels of vitamin-D have been shown to increase sensitivity to arthritic pain. It might be a good idea to talk to your physician about an appropriate supplement to take during months of reduced exposure to sun light. In addition, you can increase your intake of the foods that contain fortified vitamin-D such as salmon, cereals and orange juice. Fatty fish will also provide additional levels of omega-3 fatty acids which can aid in the reduction of inflammation. This can also be achieved through supplements but be sure to inform your doctor as some can increase the incidence of bruising and/or bleeding.

A tip which most of us will spring at incorporating into our lifestyle is to get a massage. Pain can result from the muscles around a joint as well as the joint itself. Studies have demonstrated that an hour-long massage once a week was shown to reduce pain, what other excuse do you need?


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Article Author
Arthritis National Research Foundation

The Arthritis National Research Foundation's mission is to provide initial research funding to brilliant, investigative scientists with new ideas to cure arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. Writing articles about the patients affected and the science being done to find a cure shows why we need to come together to #CureArthritis!

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