As the weather gets colder, people with arthritis may find their symptoms start to flare up. The cold weather can cause stiffness and more joint pain than usual due to barometric pressure. Barometric pressure is the atmospheric pressure around us. Barometric pressure increases with colder temperature and can affect people with arthritis, as it causes tissues to expand and contract, leading to increased joint stiffness and pain. People with rheumatoid arthritis (where the immune system attacks the joints) are more likely to feel the effects of cold and wet weather conditions than those with osteoarthritis. The good news is, there are some things you can do to help ease your winter arthritis symptoms. Here are a few tips:
1. Stretch It Out
Cold weather can cause muscles and joints to tighten up, so be sure to stretch regularly throughout the day—especially before bedtime when you’re less likely to want to move around much. Just remember not to overexert yourself or push too hard—gentle stretching is key.
2. Get Regular Exercise
Physical activity helps to increase flexibility and range of motion in the joints, which can help to reduce stiffness and joint pain. If your exercise goals also include losing weight, this may help with arthritis symptoms as it takes away some of the pressure from your joints. Low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, tai chi, and yoga are all great forms of exercise for people with arthritis. These types of exercises can help to reduce inflammation while improving mobility and range of motion in the joints. It’s important to avoid activities that involve a lot of jumping or jarring movements, since these can cause additional pain and inflammation. Strength training exercises with light weights can also help to build muscle strength, which can help support the joints. Lastly, try to find activities you enjoy—this will make it easier for you to stick with your exercise routine! If you’re not sure where to start, talk to your doctor or a physical therapist. They can help create a custom exercise plan for you.
3. Stay Warm
When it’s cold outside, your body’s extremities will naturally try to protect themselves by constricting blood flow—including your hands and feet. This can make your pain and stiffness worse. So, dress in layers and make sure you’re staying warm. You might even want to consider investing in an electric heating pad or electric blanket—just make sure to never use them while you’re sleeping.
4. Protect Your Skin
The cold weather can dry out your skin, which can exacerbate arthritis pain. Use a humidifier in your home to help keep the air moist, and don’t forget to moisturize your skin regularly—especially after showering or bathing. Also, be sure to wear gloves when you go outside so you can avoid windburn and other weather-related skin irritations.
5. Mind Your Diet
Believe it or not, what you eat can have an impact on your arthritis symptoms—for better or for worse. Be sure to eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and omega 3 fatty acids as they contain anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce pain and swelling in the joints. You should also limit rich and sweet food (sugar, saturated fats and red meat) as they can trigger inflammation. And last but not least, stay away from processed foods as they tend to be high in salt, which can cause fluid retention and add stress to the joints.
6. Get Enough Sleep
Fatigue can make arthritis symptoms worse, so aim for 7-9 hours of sleep for a full and restful night. This can be easier said than done when you’re in pain, but there are a few things you can try to help you get better sleep, such as avoiding caffeine after lunchtime, taking a relaxing bath before bedtime, and establishing a regular sleep schedule.
If you have arthritis, there are things you can do to ease joint pain during the winter months—you just have to be mindful of how the cold weather can affect your condition. Be sure to get regular exercise, stay warm, protect your skin, and mind your diet so you can enjoy a pain-free winter season! And if you need any help getting started on an exercise routine or stretching program customized specifically for you, we’re always here at Eastern Therapy Solutions! Give us a call today or stop by for a visit!