Cold Weather and Joint Pain

With winter right around the corner, is pain on your mind? Many who are dealing with arthritis note a spike in pain around the onset of winter. Some even say that the flare in their arthritic pain allows them to predict the weather. While the weather’s effects on arthritis have often been considered an old wives tale, orthopaedic research and first-hand experience from arthritis suffers lends credibility to the phenomenon.

The weather’s effect on arthritic pain is believed to be caused by:

  • Changes in barometric pressure, which is believed to cause tendons and muscles to expand leading to painful inflammation.
  • Decreased activity in the colder months leading to lower overall health, weight gain, and lack of strength and range of motion, all of which will exacerbate arthritic symptoms.

Common Types of Arthritis

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joint. The painful inflammation occurs when the lubricating cartilage between the joint bones wears away, allowing for friction between the bone. This friction results in inflammation, pain, stiffness, and lack of mobility. The most common types of arthritis include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis - An autoimmune disease that causes the body’s immune system to attack and wear down the synovium (joint lining) and joint cartilage.
  • Osteoarthritis - Caused by “wear and tear” over time.
  • Post-traumatic arthritis - A breakdown of cartilage caused by direct injury to a joint, such as a bad fall or hit in sports.

Tips for Arthritis Relief this Winter

There’s no need to suffer through arthritic pain all winter long. Below are steps you can take to reduce and manage your pain:

  • Stay warm - Bundle up in loose layers to trap in body heat to keep those sore joints insulated. Warm up with hot foods and drinks, or pop a hand warmer into your gloves to soothe arthritis in the fingers.
  • Stay healthy - While it can be tempting to indulge in comfort foods in the wintertime and put on a few pounds, maintaining overall health will help reduce stress and inflammation. Be sure to snack on foods with vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids, like oranges, nuts, and salmon, which promote healing in the body.
  • Keep moving - One reason you may experience more joint pain in the colder months is due to less physical activity. Physical activity helps lubricate the joints, and maintain strength and range of motion, which help relieve arthritic joint pain. While you may not be motivated to go for your usual walk or run, find low impact joint-friendly indoor exercises, like yoga or swimming, to keep up your exercise routine during the winter and reduce pain.
  • Over the counter pain medication - If your pain is worse some days than others, take an over the counter pain med for some relief.

If your arthritic pain persists despite at home treatments, and the pain is preventing you from leading your everyday life, it’s time to see an orthopaedic specialist. You’re arthritis may require further treatment such as, physical therapy or surgery.

The orthopaedic specialists at MidAmerica Orthopaedics Total Joint Clinic are well versed in the treatment of various forms of arthritis in any part of the body. Treatments for arthritis available at MidAmerica include; medication such as Biological Response Modifiers (RBMs), physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, and joint replacement. Your orthopaedic specialist will work with you to decide the best course of treatment for your case and lifestyle.

At MidAmerica, we aim to provide the highest quality care marked by courtesy, respect and integrity. To make an appointment at our Total Joint Clinic or to learn more about MidAmerica and the different treatment options available to you, call (708) 237-7200 or book an appointment online. Most insurance plans are accepted.