Rheumatoid Arthritis And Cold Weather Management Tips
With the weather becoming cooler or colder, many people with rheumatoid arthritis may find that their joints feel a lot stiffer or it feels a bit more challenging to get going in the morning. While the National Institutes of Health say there is no direct correlation between cold weather and an arthritis flare, many people feel worse for the wear in the wintertime.
The NIH theorizes that this is due to the changing of the weather and pressure on the joints that causes. Whatever the case, it is important to stay as healthy as possible to prevent RA flares during the winter. Below are a few ways to prevent rheumatoid arthritis and cold weather complications, from preventing colds and cases of flu to finding ways to keeping your joints and muscles from stiffening.
My Joints Are Creakier
Theres no doubt that when the temperatures drop, my joints become quite a bit creakier. When it gets bone-chilling cold outside I can literally feel that bone chill deep inside my joints. This is heightened in the joints where I have both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis .
Rheumatoid arthritis is due to my overactive immune system attacking my joints, causing inflammation and swelling. Osteoarthritis is due to the breakdown of cartilage in a joint from wear and tear, overuse, injuries, or age. Its not uncommon for people with inflammatory arthritis like RA to also have OA in the same joint.
This can feel like a dull ache from being too sedentary or it can be a sharp pain as my muscles contract when the cold air bites.
Sip A Mug Of Golden Milk
Nothing feels as good as a hot drink on a cold day and golden milk isnt just comforting the turmeric spice that gives the beverage its characteristic golden color has been shown to reduce arthritis pain, Dr. Martin says. Turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory. You can take it as a supplement but on chilly days, make it into golden milk, a traditional hot Indian drink made from any type of milk, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, pepper, and a dash of maple syrup. Turmeric showed measurable improvements in arthritis symptoms in a meta-analysis published in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.
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Reduced Physical Activity In Winter May Aggravate Arthritis
The workout routine of a person matters a lot.
In a majority of cases, people who are highly active during the warmer days, that is, summer decrease their physical activity by a significant amount in winters.
This may also happen because of the shorter length of the day during the winter season. As soon as the cold weather arrives, it becomes really hard for everybody to get up from the warm bed and move out of the house to get some exercise.
People suffering from arthritis generally engage themselves in lesser outdoor physical activity than those who do not have this disease. They find their body to become stiff and the joints hurt when moved during winter.
This can be prevented to an extent by exercising the joints on a daily basis. People need not go outside for this. Even working out for a short period of time inside the house would do wonders for their health.
Arthritis Pain Relief Tips For Winter Weather
Dress warmly, work out inside, and get enough vitamin D. These are some of the ways you can get arthritis pain relief despite the bone-chilling cold of winter weather.
Many people with arthritis swear by the pain in their joints as a predictor of rainy or cold weather. I used to hear people complain all the time that they knew rain was coming from the aching in their knees, says Pam Snow, 54, of Denver, who has arthritis. Now Im one of those people!
Snow has osteoarthritis in both knees. She typically manages her pain with exercise, diet, weight loss, and the occasional over-the-counter pain reliever, but when winter weather sets in, Snow faces an extra joint-pain challenge. I think its related to barometric pressure, she says. It definitely has made me more cognizant of the weather.
For Snow, arthritis isnt just a personal problem. As vice president for community involvement for the Colorado Arthritis Foundation, she travels the state educating others about the condition. So she’s aware that there’s very little scientific evidence to support her own experience, and that of the legions of others with arthritis who feel worse when the weather is frightful.
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Do A Home Paraffin Wax Treatment
You may have seen these strange-looking treatments at nail salons and spas but they benefit more than just beauty. Paraffin is a type of wax that melts at a relatively low temperature, which allows you to dip your hands, forearms, feet, and lower legs into it without being burned. This may sound a little strange but it can really help reduce pain and swelling from arthritis, Dr. Osterman says. The wax coats your skin and as it dries it holds the heat in longer than a traditional foot soak or warm compress . Anything that uses heat can help reduce stiffness and pain, he says. Plus you could end up with softer, smoother skin.
Studies Look At Perception Vs Reality
In one study of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers, participants were asked directly if weather affected their condition. And, perhaps not surprisingly, many said that yes, in fact, it does.
“A lot of people perceive weather as having an effect on their condition,” says Ruthberg. “Most of the time people will complain that colder weather or damper weather makes them feel worse than sunnier, warmer, drier weather.”
Since perception doesn’t necessarily equal reality, researchers have approached it from another angle and had people keep diaries about their pain or stiffness over a month or longer, then matched the reports up with official weather data.
“Some of them have shown some correlation, but it hasn’t been seen in every single study, and it has not been shown to be just a huge, huge factor,” Ruthberg says.
A 1960 study did lend some support to a weather connection. After University of Pennsylvania researcher Joseph Hollander monitored 12 arthritis patients in a climate-controlled chamber over several weeks, most, he said, felt worse when they were subjected to a combination of increased humidity and falling barometric pressure.
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I Am Far Less Productive
I definitely find my productivity level drops with the temperature. There is no doubt that physical activity helps me get more done in a day and its harder to be physically active during winter. I also find warm sunshine to be motivating for my emotional and physical well-being. Its just easier to do things when you dont have to worry about freezing temperatures, rain, or snow.
Does Cold Weather Affect Arthritis And Joint Pain
As a polar vortex envelops the Midwest, virtually everyone is talking about the weather. In light of the historic chill, were revisiting an often-debated topic: does cold weather affect joint pain? Distinguishing between medical myth and fact isnt always easy. Below we provide a brief timeline working backward of evidence collected on the subject.
In 2018, Rheumatology Advisor reported on a smartphone-based study conducted by researchers at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. The investigators launched an app that collects self-reported pain levels and pairs them with local weather data. Although the final results of the study have not been released, preliminary results suggest that there is a correlation between poor weather conditions and joint pain.
A 2017 study published in The BMJ found no relation between rainfall and joint or back pain. The researchers analyzed data from 1,552,842 adults aged 65 years who attended 11,673,392 outpatient visits between 2008 and 2012. The investigators concluded that the tendency of people to perceive patterns where none exist may explain the persistent belief that joint or back pain is associated with rainfall.1
A 2015 study published in The Journal of Rheumatology found a causal relationship between osteoarthritis and humidity. The researchers collected data from 810 participants aged 65 to 85 years with osteoarthritis of the knee, hand, and/or hip.3
Suffice it to say, the results are all over the place.
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Break Out Your Yoga Mat
One of the reasons that your pain may seem worse when its cold is because people are less inclined to move or go outside when its chilly, says Anca Askanase, MD, a rheumatologist and director of rheumatology clinical trials at Columbia University Medical Center. Doing some light exercise, like yoga, Pilates, tai chi, or Qigong, or taking a short walk will not only help warm your body up on cold days but will help your joint pain as well, she explains. One of the best things you can do is to keep moving, even when youre in pain, Dr. Askanase says.
Stay Warm But Don’t Overdo It
Wear layers. Just as we dont want to be too cold, some experience joints that swell when overheated. Layering your clothing allows you to stay warm when needed, but to cool down just as well. A hat and gloves accompany me each time I am outside, even if it is a quick run to the store. Be prepared. Always keep a set of gloves or mittens with you. Personally, I keep a set in the car, in every coat I regularly wear, and in my purse.
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Possible Causes For More Pain When Its Cold
Whether studies have proven that cold weather causes rheumatoid arthritis symptoms to worsen doesnt help you if you find your own pain and stiffness go up when the temperature drops. Even if theres no scientific explanation for the cause, you can still talk with your doctor about ways to manage this change in symptoms.
Some doctors theorize that pain and stiffness may worsen because of the drop in barometric pressure. The pain and stiffness from rheumatoid arthritis is caused by inflammation in the membranes lining your joints. A drop in barometric pressure could cause the tissues to expand, putting more pressure on an already crowded joint. This would cause the pain and stiffness to worsen.
But if the barometric pressure causes body tissues to expand, why doesnt everyone feel painor more painwhen it gets cold? Because barometric pressure doesnt affect everyone. For example, some people with migraines see their pain increase or worsen when the weather and barometric pressure change, but others dont.
Another possible cause is how our body responds when we first step outside in the cold. Its not unusual to feel our bodies stiffen up and remain stiff until were back into a warmer environment. The same thing occurs if youre sitting in a cold home or office. The cold can slow blood circulation and cause muscle .
Humidity Changes May Affect Arthritis Symptoms
One study observed that humidity or the moisture present in the air, whether accompanied by high or low temperature, leads to damaging of the aching joints. Even though it was conducted on an animal model, it provides sufficient information on the destruction of cartilage and bone cells during the cold weather.
Another study conducted on people who were suffering from osteoarthritis found that humidity along with cold weather causes a sudden hike in the joint pain.
Children are also at risk of developing arthritis. The most common type is known as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis.
The expression of this disease such as pain in the joints may increase due to sudden changes in the temperature and weather.
Cold weather negatively influences these symptoms.
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Don’t Sell The House Just Yet
One thing Ruthberg advises against: fleeing to the arid Southwest in hopes of easing arthritis pain.
“If people ask me about moving, I caution them to be very careful about disrupting their entire life based on the hope that moving to another climate will make them a whole lot better,” he says.
Plus, there’s no real scientific proof that warmer, drier climates make a difference. “I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference in what would be called epidemiology when you look at the warmest, driest community in Arizona vs. a lakeside city in the Chicago area,” he says. “I don’t think we really know.”
If you’re seriously thinking of moving, Ruthberg suggests visiting a place first to see if it really makes a difference.
The Arthritis Foundation also notes that even if you’re certain a warmer, drier climate will make you feel better, any health benefits might be outweighed by having to leave behind your support system of family and friends.
Make Sure You Are Taking Your Medications
Cold weather and schedule changes often go hand-in-hand. The holidays, kids home from school, and other activities can disrupt our schedules and cause us to forget medications while we are on the run. Dont forget to take whatever the doctor has ordered, making sure to also keep appointments for lab work and doctor visits. You are worth it.
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Stay Warm Inside And Outside Your Home
A coat, hat, gloves, scarf, leg warmers are all a must. While this is obvious, extra precautions need to be taken if you live with a chronic illness. Hands and feet are subject to frost bite and thats the last thing you want to deal with on top of everything else. Making sure your home is well heated and has proper ventilation is key. A space heater and de-humidifier can be used around specific areas of your home that need more warmth or moisture. Amazon has plenty for reasonable prices.
When To Get Medical Advice
See a GP if you think you have symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, so they can try to identify the underlying cause.
Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis quickly is important, because early treatment can prevent it getting worse and reduce the risk of joint damage.
Find out more about diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis.
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Seasonal Differences In Joint Distribution
The x and y indices reflect the RA activity in the upper and lower extremities, respectively. The z value is an indicator of predominant involvement of large joints over small joints .
The average x, y and z values are plotted in Fig. . There were significant differences in these values for spring versus summer , fall , and winter as well as for fall versus winter . There were significant differences in y for spring versus summer and fall as well as for fall versus winter the difference between spring and winter did not reach statistical significance . There was no significant seasonal difference in the z value .
Average values for joint index x , y , and z plotted by season in NinJa2016. Average x, y, and z values for the four seasons are plotted in a three-dimensional format, where x and y are plotted horizontally and z is plotted vertically. The average±standard deviation values for x, y, and z in each season are as follows: spring, 0.20±0.31, 0.12±0.26, and 0.39±0.43 summer, 0.16±0.28, 0.08±0.23, and 0.34±0.44 fall, 0.15±0.26, 0.08±0.23, and 0.35±0.44 and winter, 0.18±0.29, 0.11±0.26, and 0.38±0.44. Each bar is connected by dotted arrows in the order of the four seasons for clarity
Soak Up The Heat In A Sauna Or Hot Tub
Theres a reason heat is often the first thing recommended for joint pain it really helps, Dr. Askanase says. Heat and moisture together often work better to reduce arthritis pain than either on its own so take advantage of this by spending some time in a hot sauna or steam room . If you prefer to stay at home, a hot bath often does the trick, she says. Keep all the doors closed and the fan off so the steam can build up in your bathroom.
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Don Light But Warm Layers
Many types of fabrics and the weight of some jackets or boots are off-limits for me with my rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. A too-heavy jacket or hat can irritate my joints and muscles. I make a point to only wear looser, lighter fabrics to avoid any extra irritation. Its also important to find fabrics that dont make me overheat or layer up because RA can make your temperature increase, which can get uncomfortable if you are going in and out of buildings with the heat turned up. You dont want to carry around heavy layers or get overheated and sweaty.
Causes Of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. This means your immune system attacks the cells that line your joints by mistake, making the joints swollen, stiff and painful.
Over time, this can damage the joints, cartilage and nearby bone.
It’s not clear what triggers this problem with the immune system, although you’re at an increased risk if:
- you are a woman
Find out more about the causes of rheumatoid arthritis.
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Cold Weather May Trigger Pain Sensitivity
A study reported that people with osteoarthritis, especially the ones belonging to older age groups, who are sensitive to the changes in the weather experience more pain when the temperature drops.
The winter season has been found to be linked with increasing pain and tenderness in the body joints.
It also increases the flow of blood. When this happens, more blood collects into the affected joint and causes redness and swelling.
It also increases the sensitivity to pain by stimulating the nerves in the area.