Arthritis is a condition in which one or more joints become inflamed—causing pain, soreness, and stiffness. Arthritis can affect people of all ages, but most commonly worsens with age.
There are over 100 different types of arthritis. The most common are degenerative cases of osteoarthritis, which is when the cartilage between bones wears away, causing them to rub against each other. Another common type is inflammatory—like rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis. This is when the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, causing inflammation, erosion of joints, and even organ damage.
If arthritis is something you struggle with, you may notice an increase in joint pain with the changing seasons—especially when it gets colder.
So what causes these cold weather flare-ups, and what can be done to treat them?
What Causes Arthritis Pain To Flare Up When It Gets Cold?
Cold weather can definitely increase joint pain and make it more difficult to manage arthritis symptoms. But the explanation as to why may be different than you think.
Studies show that what contributes to an increase in arthritis pain isn’t actually the snow, rain, or cold weather itself, but a change in barometric (or atmospheric) pressure. Here’s the gist of how it works.
Barometric pressure, or the weight of the atmosphere, put outside pressure on the body which helps keep tissues from expanding. When barometric pressure drops—often when a storm develops or when the air gets colder—tissues can expand, even just slightly. Even the smallest change can put more pressure on the nerves and joints, making pain noticeably worse.
Another contributor to arthritis pain changes to exercise routines when the weather changes—especially if you’re used to exercising outdoors. Exercise helps to ease arthritis pain, so a lack of physical activity during colder months can cause the joints to stiffen up.
How To Relieve Cold Weather Arthritis Pain
It may sound simple, but dressing warm can make a big difference for your arthritis pain—especially on your extremities. Cover your head, hands, and feet with layers, gloves, socks, a scarf, and a hat. Keeping your joints warm will prevent them from aching and stiffening up.
Remember that exercise is key! Maintaining a healthy weight and remaining physically active can improve arthritis pain.
During cold months, make plans to walk regularly at an indoor track or grocery store. Try swimming indoors or participating in a grout fitness class. Take the stairs when you have the chance and keep up with household chores that keep you active. These small habits can make a big difference for your joints.
You can also try supplementing vitamin D in your diet. Research shows that vitamin D can play a role in your sensitivity to arthritis pain—but you’re less likely to get it from the sun during colder months. Talk to your doctor about vitamin D-dense foods or diet and nutrition supplements.
Arthritis Pain Treatment From Spring Creek Medical Center