How to help prevent arthritis pain in cold temperatures

Tuesday, December 8th, 2020, 6:41 pm
  • Increased pain and stiffness during damp and cold weather conditions is a common complaint for patients known to have arthritis
  • Different theories have been proposed and experiments performed to find an explanation for the worsening of joint symptoms in cold weather, but the mechanism behind this effect remains largely unknown
  • Studies have found that joints react to temperature changes by becoming stiffer in cold temperatures, and less stiff at higher temperatures
  • These changes have been found to be more pronounced in the elderly population with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis 
  • Overall, the evidence to support the role of cold weather on arthritis pain levels is weak, but some studies to report a trend towards worsening pain and stiffness with falling temperature and barometric pressure in patients with arthritis

What to do to help:

  • Stay warm! Bundle up, wear gloves, use hot packs, spend some time soaking in warm water to help decrease pain associated with falling temperatures
  • Stay moving! Movement is the best line of defense against stiffness. Something as simple as a walk or using an exercise bike (indoors if possible), gentle stretches, or even a short exercise video can make a big difference in loosening stiff joints
  • Stay hydrated! Lack of hydration can lead to increased stiffness, and it is easier to forget about hydration during the cold winter months than during the hot summer
  • Stay safe! With cold weather comes icy surfaces and an increased risk of falls. Here are a few tips on fall prevention, or safety when falling:
    • Always wear sturdy and supportive shoes, and always use the appropriate assistive device when walking outside
    • If a fall or slip does occur, protect your body from damage by 
      • tucking head and arms in towards chest (do NOT reach out to catch yourself on an outstretched arm)
      •  try as best you can to SLOW your descent, if you can no longer prevent the fall
      •  try to sit back and land on your bottom, or even curl your body to “roll” and absorb the impact when you reach the ground.

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