Does it feel like every time the temperature drops, your joint pain level seems to rise?
No, you’re not imagining things. Winter is the season of aches and pains for people with arthritis and other joint issues. The scientific reason behind this well-documented phenomenon remains uncertain, but there is no doubt that symptoms worsen in colder weather. While joint pain triggered by lower temperatures can occur anywhere in the body, it tends to be most common in joints that bear weight, such as the hips, knees, and ankles.
The good news is, there are things you can do to alleviate — and even prevent — joint pain during the colder months.
1. Bundle up!
Exposure to bone-chilling temperatures can be a shock to the system, particularly vulnerable joints. Bundling up before going outside in wintry weather, even if you’re just walking from your house to your car, will help prevent pain from flaring up. Wear gloves, hats, and scarves, as well as extra layers over your knees and legs. Several layers of lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than one thick, heavy layer because the overlapping fabric traps your body heat and keeps it close to your skin. If it’s particularly brutal out, you might want to consider wearing thermal underwear to prevent icy winds from penetrating your clothing.
It might take you a little longer to leave the house, but your joints will thank you for it!
2. Wear compression clothing
Compression gear improves blood circulation and reduces swelling. Your joints will receive the oxygen and nutrients they need, reducing stiffness and inflammation. Wearing compression gear as you work out will not only improve your symptoms but also prevent more symptoms from developing.
3. Get a move on
When the weather outside is frightful, staying cozy indoors is delightful — but you won’t be doing your joints any favors. Cutting back on normal activity levels can lead to decreased range of motion and weight gain, which can worsen your discomfort. Even five pounds of additional weight can have a significant impact on pain levels, especially in the knees.
Does the thought of exercising in the cold make you recoil? Tweak your workout routine for the winter months by taking it inside. Treadmills, exercise bikes, tai chi, and yoga are all great indoor options. Swimming laps in a heated indoor pool is particularly beneficial to your joints.
Choosing to remain active during the colder months will help you maintain joint function and mobility. You’ll also enjoy the bonus of warding off other winter woes like Seasonal Affective Disorder, sickness, and low-energy levels. On top of that, you’ll simply feel great. It’s a win-win all around.
4. Drink — and eat — to your health
Not only does eating a healthy, well-balanced diet defend against winter weight gain, but it also defends against joint pain too. Anti-inflammatory foods, in particular, can reduce pain-inducing inflammation around the joints. Examples of anti-inflammatory foods include:
- Dark, leafy greens like kale and spinach
- Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods, such as nuts and salmon
- Vitamin C-rich foods, such as tomatoes, oranges, and red peppers
Likewise, avoid foods that cause inflammation, such as:
- Sugary drinks
- Processed meats
- White bread and pasta
- Fried foods
Drinking enough water is just as important as your diet. Staying properly hydrated not only keeps your energy levels up, but it also keeps your joints well-lubricated and flushes away toxins that might be aggravating symptoms. Even mild dehydration can make you more sensitive to pain. Aim for about two liters (or half a gallon) of water a day.
5. Stretch it out
Stiff joints are painful joints. Regular stretching exercises will increase blood flow and keep your ligaments limber. Stretching as you warm up is particularly important before exercise to help stop any stiffness from turning into an injury. Stretching is equally important as you’re cooling down after your workout to prevent muscles and joints from seizing up.
6. Take care of yourself
Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Self-care is vitally important in maintaining joint health and preventing future problems down the road.
Stay safe out there. Wear shoes and boots with plenty of grip on the soles on icy, snowy days. Slips and falls happen when you least expect them.
Consider supplements. Low Vitamin D levels from lack of sunlight can contribute to joint pain. Omega-3 Fatty Acids in fish oil can reduce inflammation. And some people with arthritis find relief from Glucosamine-Chondroitin supplements.
Treat yourself to a massage. The combination of stress-busting, feel-good endorphins and improved blood circulation will swiftly ease your symptoms.