Five Cold Weather Tips for Arthritis Sufferers (2022)

Cold weather and arthritis don’t mix, and this time of year can be hard on those of us who suffer with stiff joints.

Five Cold Weather Tips for Arthritis Sufferers (1)

Oh the weather outside is frightful, may be the beginning to one of your favorite holiday songs, but this sentiment can be especially true for women suffering from arthritis.

Up until a few years ago, I thought only the elderly dealt with arthritis. Oh my naivety. Little did I know, I myself would be feeling the effects of arthritis while only in my 30’s. Upon experiencing the telltale signs of joint pain, stiffness, redness, skin hot to the touch and inflammation of my own, eventually leading to a diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis, I quickly learned I knew nothing about arthritis or who this painful problem truly effects.

Who Gets Arthritis?

According to the Global RA Network, arthritis affects an estimated 350 million people worldwide, and in North America, “arthritis causes more disability than any other condition, including heart disease, diabetes, and back or spine problems.” That’s shocking! And it seems as though arthritis, and it’s debilitating repercussions, are not discussed enough for those of us outside of the osteoarthritis (arthritis in the elderly or caused by injuries and/or overuse) community.

(Video) Cold weather exercise tips for arthritis sufferers

There are over 100 types of arthritis. Many arthritis subtypes are related to autoimmunity, with Rheumatoid Arthritis being the most recognized and diagnosed. Psoriatic Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondyloarthritis, Axial Spondyloarthritis and Juvenile Arthritis are the next most identified types of autoimmune arthritis. Each disease attacks different areas of the body’s joints and/or associated tendons, but common symptoms of arthritis include the following:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • redness
  • instability/weakness
  • aches
  • stiffness
  • decreased range of motion
  • permanent damage/disfigurement

Cold Weather and Arthritis go Together

Well, no one seems to know for sure why cold weather effects arthritis, but leading experts are seeing that changes in the barometric pressure, specifically lower barometric pressure which occurs when the temperature drops, may be the key behind the additional hurts.

Five Cold Weather Tips for Arthritis Sufferers (2)

How to Combat the Cold Weather with Arthritis

What’s a gal to do when the cold weather starts to seep in and your arthritis starts acting up?

There are several steps you can take to help ensure you don’t feel the full brunt of winter’s ramifications. Below I’ll share the top five things you can do to winter-proof your arthritis.

(Video) Navigating Winter Weather: 5 Tips for Arthritis Patients | Johns Hopkins Rheumatology

5 Top Ways to Tolerate Cold Weather and Arthritis

Here are my top 5 ways to tolerate cold weather and arthritis. No, it’s not going to be easy, but trust me, you can do this!

#1: Move Yo’ Body!

While exercise might be the last thing you want to do if your joints are cranky, it’s one of the best things you can do for them. Do something to move your body every day. Now let me be clear, when I say “move,” I don’t mean train for a marathon. Move simply mean just that: Move. Walking, gentle stretching activities like yoga or Pilates, swimming (but maybe only if you have access to an indoor or heated pool because otherwise, YIKES!), and strength training are all great activities that you can enjoy at whatever pace you choose. The important thing to remember is to be consistent and don’t over do it.

Movement is important on two fronts. Exercise helps to lubricate joints. This helps to keep your joints healthy and helps maintain movement of the joint itself. The other reason to get moving is that exercise releases happy brain chemicals, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Not only do these chemicals help with putting you in a better mental space, they also reduce pain in body!

#2: Get Your D Up

Vitamin D! Get your mind out of the gutter!

(Video) Arthritis exercises for cold weather

Vitamin D is vital for the body. Vitamin D supports the immune system and reduces inflammation throughout the body. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is prevalent all around the world, and it’s estimated that 50% of the population have an insufficient amount of vitamin D.

One of the best ways to raise your vitamin D is to get out into the sun! We naturally absorb a lot of vitamin D through our skin. Just 15-20 minutes in the sun, without sunscreen, is enough to boost your levels (if you are planning to stay outside any longer, go put that sunscreen on). Now, depending on where you live, there may not be much shine in the sky during the winter. That’s okay! Eating foods rich in vitamin D, like fish, egg yolks, spinach, kale and organ meats (I know, it sounds gross, but they are so nutrient dense!), or taking a vitamin D supplement can be great ways of making sure you have the right amount of D in your life.

#3: Dress For Warmth and Layer Your Clothing

This sounds obvious enough, but stay warm! Dress properly for whatever cold weather activities you plan on doing that day. Layering your clothes can be especially helpful so you can remove or add as needed. And while were on the subject of things to wear….

#4: Compression Gloves and Socks

Compression gloves and socks are designed to put just enough pressure on your hands and/or feet to relieve swelling and aches. By compressing the area the garment is on, circulation is improved which supplies blood to the arthritic affected area. Make sure your gloves or socks fit correctly through. Too tight or too loose and you will not feel the benefits.

(Video) Managing Arthritis Pain in the Winter

#5: Have Fun!

Why is having fun on this list? Because sometimes, doing something you enjoy is the best medicine. During cold weather months, seasonal blues can seep in, and taking time to have fun can bust those funks. What makes you really, really happy? Spending time outdoors? Meeting friends for a coffee date? Playing board games with your kiddos? Sneaking off to a quiet corner of the house with a good book? Whatever happy looks like to you, do it!

Doing something that brings you joy can distract you from those less than pleasant things happening in your body. And remember those happy hormones I mentioned that get released during exercise? Doing anything that lights up your heart gives you the same result. So take some time for yourself to just revel in something you truly love.

Apply these Top 5 Things to your Arthritis in Cold Weather

Getting through the winter can be a pain… literally. By knowing areas you can address to combat the full strength of your arthritis ails, you are giving yourself the best chance at an enjoyable winter. Baby, it may be cold outside, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer.

*Note- Lauren Tarr recently wrote a great article about dealing with Raynaud’s Syndrome during the winter months. While arthritis and Raynaud’s are different diseases, Lauren shared a lot of helpful info in her piece that also to applies to arthritis. Go read her article here for some additional tips on how to handle cold weather with arthritis!

(Video) 3 secrets to find relief from ARTHRITIS AND COLD WEATHER | Dr. Alyssa Kuhn

*DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or health care professional. I am not licensed, nor qualified, to give medical or nutritional advice. This article is not meant to diagnose or treat, but is intended for informational purposes. I am sharing my experience as someone who has suffered with and continues to live with autoimmune disease. Please consult with a doctor, nutritionist or medical professional for any medical needs and/or questions.*

FAQs

Does the cold weather make arthritis worse? ›

While cold weather doesn't cause arthritis, existing arthritis symptoms like pain and stiffness may be made worse when the temperature drops. Researchers and numerous studies have evaluated the connection between cold weather and arthritis pain.

How do I keep my joints warm in the winter? ›

Staying Warm
  1. Wear Light but Warm Layers. Wearing several layers of clothing is the best way to trap warm air close to your body. ...
  2. Wear Compression Socks and Gloves. ...
  3. Take a Hot Bath or Shower. ...
  4. Sleep with Extra Warmth. ...
  5. Daytime Outdoor Activities. ...
  6. Take Classes. ...
  7. Get a Massage. ...
  8. Consume Vitamin D.
Dec 5, 2019

What climate is better for arthritis? ›

According to Professor Karen Walker-Bone, professor of occupational rheumatology at the University of Southampton, people with osteoarthritis generally prefer warm and dry weather, while those with rheumatoid arthritis tend to prefer the cooler weather.

Why does arthritis act up in cold weather? ›

A fall in barometric pressure, which often occurs as a cold front approaches, can cause joints to expand, which may result in pain. Low temps may also increase the thickness of the synovial fluid that acts as the joint's shock absorber, which makes joints stiffer and more sensitive to pain.

What is better for arthritis heat or cold? ›

For an acute injury, such as a pulled muscle or injured tendon, the usual recommendation is to start by applying ice to reduce inflammation and dull pain. Once inflammation has gone down, heat can be used to ease stiffness. For a chronic pain condition, such as osteoarthritis, heat seems to work best.

How do you stop arthritis from getting worse? ›

Slowing Osteoarthritis Progression
  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight. Excess weight puts additional pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. ...
  2. Control Blood Sugar. ...
  3. Get Physical. ...
  4. Protect Joints. ...
  5. Choose a Healthy Lifestyle.

Which protein increases arthritis pain? ›

02. Dairy. Dairy contains a high level of protein casein. This type of protein triggers inflammation and pain in the joints, and may even contribute to irritation around the joints.

Do electric blankets help arthritis? ›

Use light layers on your bed to help make it easier to adjust to the perfect temperature for you. Add heat. Along with a warm shower, snuggling with an electric blanket can provide joint pain relief.

How do you get rid of bone pain from a cold? ›

Effective Tips To Reduce Bone And Joint Pain During Winters
  1. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and reduce inflammation and further reduce the friction between joint surfaces. ...
  2. Soak in lots of vitamin D. A lack of vitamin D can cause joint and bone pain. ...
  3. Stay active. ...
  4. Eat right. ...
  5. Hot water fermentation.
Dec 21, 2017

What helps knee pain in cold weather? ›

Use moist heat to boost circulation and loosen muscles. A warm bath could do the trick. Don't stop moving, even if you don't want to work out outside. Exercise makes your bones and the muscles around your knees stronger, taking pressure off the joint.

How can I protect my knees in winter? ›

Knees are like barometers and cold, damp weather can make them more symptomatic. Try keeping your knees warm with a neoprene sleeve or knee wrap. Chill out. Ice your knees for 15 minutes after activity or exercise if you tend to develop soreness.

Where is the best place to live for arthritis? ›

According to the report's authors, Maryland scored the highest marks for the best state to live in with Arthritis because it has a very high concentration of rheumatologists and a low rate of residents without health insurance.

Is the sun good for arthritis? ›

Sun helps the body synthesize vitamin D, which is essential for bone health and a well-functioning immune system; vitamin D deficiency has been linked to autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Plus, sunshine boosts mood by raising levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.

When does arthritis hurt the most? ›

Pain in one or more of your joints is the classic symptom of this condition. Usually it starts to hurt when you use the joint or right after you wake up. The pain also often gets worse at the end of the day.

Does arthritis make you tired? ›

Many people with arthritis say fatigue is one of their biggest challenges. Fatigue can be linked to many types of arthritis and related conditions. It's commonly a symptom of autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, reactive arthritis and lupus.

Is ice water good for arthritis? ›

Yes. Cold packs numb the sore area and reduce inflammation and swelling. Ice packs are especially good for joint pain caused by an arthritis flare.

Does rain make arthritis worse? ›

Blame it on the rain

Many people with arthritis feel worsening symptoms before and during rainy days. A drop in pressure often precedes cold, rainy weather. This drop in pressure may cause already inflamed tissue to expand, leading to increased pain.

Why does heat make arthritis feel better? ›

Heat therapy is an easy, inexpensive, and medication-free way to relieve some types of arthritis stiffness and pain. Heat therapy can: Encourage the healing of damaged tissue. Warmth causes the blood vessels of the muscles to dilate, which increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.

What does arthritis pain feel like? ›

In general, the first sign of arthritis is pain, also called arthralgia. This can feel like a dull ache or a burning sensation. Often, pain starts after you've used the joint a lot, for example, if you've been gardening or if you just walked up a flight of stairs. Some people feel soreness first thing in the morning.

Is arthritis worse in summer or winter? ›

For many people, arthritis symptoms seem to get worse in the summer months, and there's a good reason for that.

Is heating pad good for arthritis pain? ›

Heat and cold.

Use of heat, such as applying heating pads to aching joints, taking hot baths or showers, or immersing painful joints in warm paraffin wax, can help relieve pain temporarily. Be careful not to burn yourself. Use heating pads for no more than 20 minutes at a time.

Where is the best place to live with arthritis? ›

According to the report's authors, Maryland scored the highest marks for the best state to live in with Arthritis because it has a very high concentration of rheumatologists and a low rate of residents without health insurance.

Does rain affect arthritis? ›

Blame it on the rain

Many people with arthritis feel worsening symptoms before and during rainy days. A drop in pressure often precedes cold, rainy weather. This drop in pressure may cause already inflamed tissue to expand, leading to increased pain.

How do you lubricate stiff joints? ›

Consuming healthy fats can increase joint health and lubrication. Foods high in healthy fats include salmon, trout, mackerel, avocados, olive oil, almonds, walnuts, and chia seeds. The omega-3 fatty acids in these foods will assist in joint lubrication.

Videos

1. 7 Foods You Should NEVER Eat If You Have Arthritis (R.A)/Fibromyalgia - REAL Patient
(Bob & Brad)
2. How to Deal With Arthritis in Cold Weather | Does Arthritis Get Worse in Cold Weather?
(Medicine Chamber)
3. Finding arthritis relief in the winter
(WTNH News8)
4. 5 Cold Weather Health Myths to Stop Believing | Health
(Health Magazine)
5. Avoid 10 Foods That Can Worsen Joint Pain or Arthritis
(ePainAssist)
6. Why is arthritis pain worse in winter? Tips for managing cold weather flare-ups
(Healthy Lifestyle)

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