How to Survive Winter with Chronic Joint Pain
Winter is the season of joy and festivity, but baby it’s cold outside. And for those suffering from chronic joint pain or arthritis, the cold weather can be excruciating.
Though the exact science behind the relationship between increased joint pain and falling temperatures is unclear, most people with chronic joint pain report worsening symptoms during winter. Some scientists believe that the changes in barometric pressure during winter make your tendons, muscles, and scar tissue expand and contract, exacerbating joint pain and stiffness.
No matter the reason, winter joint pain can often be debilitating and prevent you from fully participating in day-to-day life. Luckily, there are some precautions you can take to manage your joint pain during the colder seasons.
Dress in Layers
Dressing in layers is essential to keeping your joints warm. Layer up with gloves, scarves, warm boots, long johns, and any other extra layer you need to protect your joints from the cold. Garments made of lightweight wool are ideal for the first layer of clothing as they will trap warm, dry air and keep you comfortable.
It is also important to note that heavy or bulky clothing, though warm, can place more strain on your joints and even affect balance.
Warm showers, hot compresses, and heating pads help soothe joint pain and keep the cold at bay. Paraffin baths are also known to provide relief from arthritis pain.
Because cautious when using products such as heat packs, as leaving them on for a long time can cause burns. If you have diabetes, avoid using heat packs especially for areas with diminished sensation.
A nutritious diet is what your joints need to remain healthy. The antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables can help mitigate joint damage. Leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach contain vitamin K which helps strengthen your bones. Food rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, nuts, and soy can reduce pain-inducing inflammation.
Avoiding trans-fats, processed food, refined sugar, and alcohol can also protect joint health and minimize inflammation.
Tweak your exercise routine for winter. Even if stiff joints and winter chill make it hard for you to remain active, you must exercise regularly to lose weight and build up muscles and bone strength. This reduces pressure on your joints and makes them less prone to injury.
Come up with an indoor workout plan or consider a gym membership. Lighter exercises like yoga, tai-chi, and low-impact aerobic exercises can promote joint health. If your joints are stiff or cold, make sure to stretch or warm-up before working out.
Our pro tip is to find an exercise partner, possibly someone with similar health challenges so that you can keep each other on track.
Most people don’t get enough vitamin D during the winter months. This especially spells danger for people with arthritis as studies show that lower vitamin D levels can worsen your symptoms. Doctors often prescribe vitamin D and fish oil supplements to combat joint stiffness and pain.
Always consult with your doctor before taking supplements and over-the-counter pain medications to avoid unwanted side effects.
If you have additional questions about winter joint pain management, reach out to the practice of Matthew D. Barber, M.D., by calling (251) 410-3600 or contacting us online to book an appointment.
While Dr. Barber focuses exclusively on the management of knee and hip problems with a focus on joint replacement procedures, he is proud to be a source of information for patients and has several specialist partners at ALABAMA ORTHOPAEDIC CLINIC who are available to treat any orthopedic condition.