According to the CDC, arthritis is one of the most widespread health conditions in the United States, affecting almost 59 million men and women and one in four adults overall. Nearly 26 million people are unable to do everyday activities because of arthritis causing pain and stiffness in and around the affected joint. To make matters more complex, cold weather can intensify arthritis pain. According to the Arthritis Foundation, frigid temperatures in winter can heighten pain sensitivity, slow blood circulation and cause muscle spasms. Our joints can detect and respond to changes in barometric pressure (the amount of air pressure in the atmosphere), which is why some say they can detect an oncoming storm when their joints start aching.
While there is no “quick fix” for arthritis pain and treatment options vary per person and by severity, the suggestions below may provide temporary relief from arthritis pain in winter.
Keep your joints warm – Applying a heating pad or taking a warm bath can warm joints and provide temporary relief from arthritis pain. When going outside, make sure your joints are covered with proper clothing and/or gloves.
Stay physically active (inside) – If you have arthritis, participating in joint-friendly (low-impact) physical activity can improve your arthritis pain, function and quality of life. Low-impact activities, such as walking, yoga, swimming or biking, are recommended as they put less stress on the joints.
Wear compression sleeves – Compression sleeves provide firmness and warmth, which can reduce swelling and inflammation and improve circulation. Talk to your doctor before wearing them for an extended period of time, or overnight.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods – According to Harvard Health Publishing, many major diseases that plague us, such as arthritis, have been linked to chronic inflammation. To help fight inflammation, try incorporating the following foods into your diet: tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables, nuts (almonds, walnuts), fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna) and fruits (strawberries, blueberries, cherries, oranges). Talk to your healthcare provider about additional foods or supplements that may provide anti-inflammatory benefits.
Over-the-counter pain relievers – Some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen or Voltaren topical gel, can be bought over-the-counter and do not require a prescription. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist before taking a new medication or an NSAID on a regular basis.
Seek medical attention if symptoms are not manageable – If arthritis pain is keeping you from doing the things you love, and conservative treatment is no longer providing relief, it’s important to have an open conversation with your doctor. At Central Indiana Orthopedics, we have a team of board-certified orthopedic doctors who specialize in arthritis and can set up a personalized treatment plan based on your symptoms and goals. To schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic doctors, call 800-622-6575 or request an appointment online.