It’s officially the fall season, and as families prepare for the oncoming festivities, some of us are left to fend off much more physical challenges. Due to changes in the weather, joint pain is a common complaint in patients as the fall and winter seasons begin. Among patients with arthritic pain, the environmental conditions of the colder months of the year often serve to exacerbate pain and harshly increase sensitivity. As the year progresses and the thermostat drops, generalized joint pain increases.
There’s little research on what causes this, but there are some convincing hypotheses, and enough examples to understand that a colder environment does, in fact, lead to a higher number of complaints regarding joint pain. One theory is that as the temperature drops, the body begins to conserve heat and focuses on keeping critical portions of the body warm, thus reducing circulation to our limbs and extremities, and thus increasing pain in the joints.
Because the cold is also accompanied by changes in barometric pressure, and we know that synovial fluid in the joints is sensitive to such changes, it’s also possible that the joint pain is simply triggered by a change in weather. Either way, avoiding the cold and improving your circulation are just two simple tips to quell fall and winter-related joint pains. Here are plenty of tips to consider:
Logically, if it’s the cold that’s causing joint pain, then the simplest thing to do is layer up. But it’s about more than just that. Keeping warm doesn’t always just mean wearing thicker clothing or turning up the heat. You can keep warm by getting your blood to flow through your arms and legs, limbering up with a few basic stretches and exercises.
Daily exercises focused on improving circulation through the body can also help reduce pain by flooding your system with endorphins. There’s also research that supports that warming up before any physical activity and regularly engaging in static and dynamic stretching can prevent further injuries.
If getting yourself warmed up or snuggling next to a cozy spot at home doesn’t feel like enough to quell your joint pain, consider a more local application of heat. Through warm water bottles as well as special ointments with camphor or capsaicin, you can warm up your joints or give yourself the sensation of being wrapped in heat.
While pleasant, beware of using too much ointment, or boiling hot water. Skin sensitive to ingredients like capsaicin may react badly with it, as well, so ask your doctor about a heating or pain-relief ointment before you choose one.
Manage Your Inflammatory Joint Pain Through Diet
Arthritis-related joint pain is caused by inflammation. The colder months of the year can worsen inflammation, in part due to the aforementioned changes in barometric pressure. While you can’t exactly tell the seasons to shift or change, you can tackle your inflammation more vigorously to make up for the change in the weather.
An anti-inflammatory diet can be used to help minimize the effects of inflammation by reducing the amount of ‘inflammatory foods’ in a person’s diet. While the effects differ from person to person, an anti-inflammatory diet can typically help reduce chronic pain and improve longevity, by swapping out processed foods and preservatives for vegetables, legumes, grain, and fresh meats.
If you’re a big fan of a nice brisk outdoor walk or a morning jog, but find your joints aching as the fall approaches, it might be a good idea to invest in a gym membership or workout at home until spring. Working out in a warmer environment helps your body warm up faster and can reduce joint pain.
An excellent idea is to substitute your usual workouts with a swimming session in a heated pool. Not only does the heat help you with the pain, but the water can help take some pressure off the joints and reduce the wear-and-tear associated with long jogs or running sessions.
Take Vitamin D
Vitamin D has been linked to pain sensitivity in cases of arthritis, insofar that having low levels of vitamin D can negatively impact your joint pain. The fall and winter months are commonly associated with vitamin D deficiency, as you find yourself exposed to less and less sunlight, with cloudy overcast days, longer nights, and shorter daytime. Given the brisk weather, you may also be less inclined to spend time outdoors. Vitamin D can help supplement for the lack of natural light.
Get Regular Massages
Regardless of what kind of massages you enjoy, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that a massage appropriate for your preferences and pain levels can help improve circulation, reduce pain, and increase flexibility. Massages have been useful to help reduce arthritic pain for a long time, and their usefulness should be highlighted in the months when arthritic pain is at its all-time high.
Studies have shown that being even mildly dehydrated can increase joint pain and worsen inflammation. Always keep a bottle of water nearby and remind yourself to take a sip every now and then. While the recommended daily water intake changes from person to person and depends on their diet, size, gender, and activity levels, a good benchmark is to try and consume about 2 liters, or half a gallon a day.
Have OTC Joint Pain Medication on Hand
Anti-inflammatory medication and acetaminophen (paracetamol) can prove invaluable on days when you need a little extra help dealing with the pain. Rather than relying solely on over-the-counter medication or lifestyle changes, it’s best to combine the two when needed.
Some of these tips are easier to apply than others, and some can be tweaked for you purposes. You may not have the means to get a professional arthritis-appropriate massage or swim in a heated indoor pool, but you can still go see a professional for your pain, stretch daily, stay hydrated, and keep warm.
Wearing compression clothing might help lessen your chronic arthritis pain by improving circulation and keeping the joints warm. OTC medication is less effective than other painkillers, such as opioids, but they come without serious side effects or the risk of addiction.
If your pain has become severe, then relying on household methods may not be the wisest choice. See a doctor immediately.