How to relieve arthritis pain in cold weather
If you find winter a real pain in the neck (or knee, hand, foot or hip), you’re not alone. Here’s how to ease joint pain in the cold weather.
Many arthritis sufferers claim they can predict rainfall by the surging pain levels in their joints.
In drizzly winter months, that can translate to a lot of discomfort for more than 3.85 million Australians who have arthritis.
- Related: Why glucosamine is ‘food for joints’
Why does arthritis feels worse in cold weather?
While people with arthritis experience pain all year round, the colder months can make it harder to manage symptoms, says the Arthritis Foundation of Western Australia.
It is believed changes in barometric pressure and humidity can have an impact on arthritis symptoms.
Cold and damp weather tends to change people’s all-important exercise routines, which can also have a detrimental effect.
How to relieve arthritis pain in winter
There are more than 100 types of arthritis – including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis – so it’s difficult to find a “one-size-fits-all” solution, says musculoskeletal physiotherapist Yves Silveira.
“It is essentially inflammation of the joint, which leads to pain and restricted movement and there are ways to reduce these issues,” he says.
- Dress warmly
The Arthritis Foundation of WA advises focusing on the head, hands and feet, which is where most of the body’s heat is lost.
Wear loose layers to trap body heat, as well as mittens or gloves, a hat or a beanie and a scarf to protect the neck.
- Use heat and ice
Go back to basics with affordable hot and cold treatments.
The Arthritis Foundation says heat packs or warm baths can soothe stiff joints and tired muscles, while cold is best for dulling acute pain.
- Enlist an expert
A physiotherapist can help tape the joints to ease the pain, or advise on suitable exercises that won’t aggravate them.
Can’t get to the physio? Yves says portable physiotherapists such as The PainPod can be a decent substitute.
- Get up and about
Monash Department of Clinical Epidemiology director Professor Rachelle Buchbinder says inflammatory arthritis is often worse in the morning, and can be eased by a hot shower, moving, staying active and exercising.
“The best approach for osteoarthritis of the knees is to also stay active, do knee strengthening exercises and maintain a healthy weight,” she says.
Studies have found that meditation and mindfulness exercises can help people with arthritis – and other forms of chronic pain – cope better with their symptoms, and ease associated depression.
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Written by Sally Heppleston