Dr. Arthritis Answers: Does Colder Weather Make My Arthritis Worse?

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It’s now fall (or Autumn), officially.

This means days are now shorter, the breeze is now blowing a little colder, and for a lot of arthritis sufferers, joints are now stiffer and more painful.

But is there any medical basis for arthritis symptoms flaring up when the temperature drops?

Anecdotally, the evidence that this is a real phenomenon is overwhelming. One theory blames it on the changes in barometric pressure. Essentially, when damper and cooler months roll in, tissues surrounding the joint tend to swell, which adds pressure on nerves that control pain signals.

Another hypothesis looks into the way cool weather affects different parts of the body. Basically, during cold weather, nerves constrict blood vessels to reduce heat loss and maintain the body’s warmth. As a side effect, pain signals become amplified.

Whatever the reason, fact is, thousands of arthritis sufferers report heightened pain and discomfort when the colder seasons begin. The question now is: what can you do about it?

Short of packing up and moving to the tropics, there are numerous things you try to help manage your pain.

Exercise, no matter what season is good for you

For starters, try making sure that you stay active. Chilly weather and cold, rainy days can be  very compelling reasons to stay indoors, tucked under a warm blanket, on your bed or sofa. But keep in mind that immobility can actually make arthritis worse.

Exercise can also help manage your mood, which statistically, gets pulled down during colder months and as a result, makes you more perceptive to pain.

Dress for the season

Early into fall, it’s typical to be cold in the morning and sweltering by afternoon. As a result, people tend to dress for warm weather despite the fact that the colder evenings start to take its toll on your joints. An easy workaround? Layer your clothes. You can also try using compression sleeves under your clothes to support and protect your affected joints.

Keep yourself hydrated

In colder weather, when you’re less active, it’s easy to forget that you actually need to drink eight glasses of water a day. But staying hydrated can help you stay active and lowers the risk of dehydration, which can make you more sensitive to pain.

Be more conscious of your diet

When it comes to managing your arthritis, you need all the help you can get. Give yourself a boost by making sure that you eat foods that help bring down inflammation in your affected joints. Choose foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Living with arthritis, even during colder months, doesn’t have to be as bad as you think. In fact, these minor lifestyle tweaks will help you manage your condition better.

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