Now that Winter has really settled in, chillier temperatures can mean an increase in discomfort for those who suffer from daily aches and pains. While research on the link between bad weather and joint pain is sparse, the general consensus suggests that cold weather itself isn’t the culprit. Sudden drops in barometric pressure can cause joints to swell, constricting nerves and restricting blood flow. The more joints swell, the more pain one experiences. A portion of the blame can also be reserved for humidity. To help ease your osteoarthritis pains, we have compiled a helpful list of arthritis pain relief tips and tricks to help you thrive this Winter season.
1 – Dress Warmly
This might seem like a little bit of a “duh”, but this is by far the easiest way to avoid weather-related joint pain. When cold, our nervous systems pull muscles tight, which in turn pulls on tendons and ligaments. It is much more difficult to warm up tense muscles and ease pain than it is to avoid them in the first place! Wear plenty of layers that you can adjust as necessary and don’t forget your gloves, thick socks and scarf.
2 – Stay Hydrated
According to a recent study published in Experimental Psychology, even mild dehydration can make you more sensitive to pain. Don’t wait until you are thirsty before you drink, and make sure that the majority of your liquid intake comes in the form of plain, regular water.
3 – Lose Weight
Only a truly mean person would suggest losing weight right before the holidays, but research is overwhelming on this: each pound of body weight equates to 3 lb of added stress on the knees and 6 lb of added pressure on the hip joints. This increased pressure causes the cartilage between the joints to break down more quickly, worsening osteoarthritis. Losing weight can ease pressure on the joints, reducing pain and stiffness.
4 – Exercise Regularly
One study that tracked the exercise habits of more than 1,000 people with knee osteoarthritis found that only 13 percent of men and 8 percent of women met the government’s minimum exercise goal (at least 150 minutes a week).
While the urge to hibernate and become a couch potato can be incredibly strong in Winter, it is really essential to your continued health to keep moving! Walking the mall, swimming, yoga, Tai Chi and even gentle stretching in your home are excellent ways to stay active during the Winter months. Your local YMCA offers a great Silver Sneakers Program with dozens of classes designed especially for our vintage patients.
5 – Take a Warm Bath
Warm water works wonders on arthritis pain! It reduces the force of gravity that’s compressing the joint, offers 360-degree support for sore limbs, can decrease swelling and inflammation and increase circulation. For an extra boost, add Epsom Salts and perform light stretching exercises while enjoying your bath.
6 – Hot and Cold Treatments
Heat and cold treatments are effective methods for reducing arthritis pain. Try alternating hot and cold compresses to turbo-charge your pain reduction. It is essential to monitor the skin carefully, to ensure you don’t damage the skin. Heating pads, ice packs, mentholatum sprays can help with arthritis pain relief, but the staff at Dayton Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Center personally recommends a nice big cup of hot chocolate with extra marshmallows. For your arthritis, of course…
7 – Supplements
Recent research suggests that Vitamin D plays an important role in the pain associated with osteoarthritis. Being Vitamin D deficient also increases the risk for Osteoporosis. You’re less likely to get enough vitamin D from its natural source, sunlight, in the winter, so talk to us about your need for supplements or vitamin D-fortified foods.
A 2010 meta-analysis found that fish oil significantly decreased joint tenderness and stiffness in RA patients and reduced or eliminated NSAID use. Preliminary studies indicate it may have a similar effect on osteoarthritis. A 2005 study of people with RA showed enhanced positive effects when fish oil supplements were used in combination with olive oil. Make sure to let your doctor know if you try omega-3s, as they can increase the risk for bruising or bleeding.
8 – TENS Treatment
TENS is a method of pain relief that uses electrodes in the form of sticky pads that attach to the surface of the skin to deliver small electrical currents to the body. A person can adjust the intensity of the stimulation by turning a dial. Electrical stimulation helps override pain signals while also triggering the body to release natural pain relievers called endorphins. The authors of a 2014 meta-analysisTrusted Source concluded that the delivery of TENS at adequate intensities could help reduce osteoarthritis pain.
9 – Talk to Us!
At Dayton Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Center, we firmly believe that pain should never be considered a normal part of everyday life. If you have taken the steps described above and STILL find yourself dealing with uncontrolled pain, it’s time to come in to see us. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, so proper diagnosis is essential to successful arthritis pain relief.
Stay safe and warm this Winter, and don’t forget to book your checkup with Dr Jonathan Paley!