As we slip into the colder months, we start to notice the telltale signs of winter. The days get shorter, the sky turns grey, the humidity rises…and our joints begin to ache? Not just an old wives’ tale, the aches and pains we experience really can flare up in the cold. As the winter months come upon us, we have all likely experienced increased soreness and stiffness. But what are joint pain flare-ups? Why does cold weather aggravate our joints? And, most importantly, what can we do about our winter pain?
What Are Joint Pain Flare-Ups?
The symptoms of chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis and other inflammatory diseases can go in waves. Sometimes, pain and fatigue can suddenly drastically increase after a period of minimal difficulty or discomfort, seemingly “out of nowhere”. Joint pain flare-ups can include pain, stiffness, swelling, and fatigue. Typically, joint pain flare-ups stem from a variety of triggers. “Overdoing it”, or engaging in too much activity, can be one cause. In addition, the wrong foods or dehydration can aggravate joint pain, as can stress. And, most notably, weather changes.
Why Does Cold Weather Affect Joints?
There are a few different theories as to why exactly cold weather leads to joint pain flare-ups. The most widely accepted theory relates specifically to the changes in barometric pressure. These same barometric changes that follow a warm or cold front, combined with lower temperatures and higher humidity, can cause the perfect storm.
Some have suggested that as the barometric pressure falls, the tendons and ligaments of the body expand. This would create more friction and increase pressure on already aggravated joints. Others say that the colder temperatures could thicken the fluid that cushions the movements of joints, limiting its ability to protect the joints. Whatever the case may be, those who suffer from chronic pain agree: winter increases joint pain.
How to Cope with Winter Pain
So what can be done practically to help with the joint pain flare-ups that winter brings? Here are a few suggestions:
- Dress Warm
Your joints and muscles stay warmer despite the dropping temperatures outside when you bundle up. Invest in quality cold-weather gear to protect your joints. Wear gloves when you can, and wear warm clothes inside when you need to.
- Sleep Well and Eat Right
Getting enough sleep is essential for your body’s well-being. Getting enough sleep every night allows your body to have time to heal itself and prevent further injury. And eating well keeps your cells energized to continue to renew your body, inside and out. Any “repair work” that needs doing will require fuel, and the right food (including supplements) keeps them going! Maintaining a healthy weight will also reduce stress on the joints and keep your body functioning at optimal levels.
Sometimes you just want to be warm and cozy, and sometimes that’s what your body really needs! Visit the sauna to allow your muscles to relax and take a break from the cold outside. Take a hot bath and allow the steam to loosen up any stiffness caused by the cold weather. Use heated blankets and heating pads to warm up your joints. And treat yourself to a paraffin wax treatment that will saturate your hands with warmth and soothe dry skin while you’re at it. Prioritize your needs- your body will thank you!
- Stay Active
Cold weather increases joint pain flare-ups because we are less likely to exercise when it is cold and damp. So shake up your exercise routine and stay moving! Pull out your yoga mat or find some at-home exercises that work for you. Stretch before braving the outdoors, and take short walks when it isn’t quite as cold outside. Keeping your body active can help you resist those flare-ups.
- Look Into Physical Therapy
Do you ever feel like you need to stretch and strengthen specific parts of your body, but you need guidance and training? Then physical therapy might be exactly what you need! At OrthoUnited, we can provide a personalized care plan to help you maximize function and improve your quality of life.
- Determine What Treatment is Best for You
While some pain is chronic and only manageable with exercise and lifestyle changes, other pain requires something more. If you think you need surgical intervention to address your joint pain, there’s no need to suffer in silence! Request an appointment today to see if our specialists can treat your condition and help you feel like yourself again.
Feel like you could benefit from a personalized consultation to relieve your pain and help you get back to normal? Contact OrthoUnited today to request an appointment. We may be able to get you in the same day!