What Makes Arthritis Flare Up
When you’re suffering from a painful condition like arthritis, you’re almost always looking for ways to keep your symptoms at bay.
We’ve all heard the old wives’ tale that when an achey joint is acting up it’s a sign that bad weather is on the way…but can it really be true that something like a change in weather can trigger your pain?
“It’s true the symptoms of arthritis can recede and flare up. It’s also true that a change in weather can sometimes trigger a flare-up, which is often magnified when a certain type of arthritis is not being well-managed,” says Dr. Syed Alam, rheumatologist at Houston Methodist.
“While you can’t control the weather, the good news is that you can avoid other triggers of arthritic flare-ups as long as you know what type of arthritis you have in the first place,” adds Dr. Alam.
Arthritis is a broad term for pain, tenderness or swelling in a particular joint , and the three most common types of arthritis are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis when your immune system attacks the structure of your joint
- Osteoarthritis wear and tear damage that breaks down the cushion in your joint
- Gout when sharp crystals form and deposit in a joint
“When it comes to flare-ups of these types of arthritis, the triggers themselves aren’t actually the source of your pain. They’re just things that aggravate the underlying issues of the arthritis,” explains Dr. Alam.
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.
Consider Acetaminophen Or Nsaids
Even if, like Snow, you prefer to treat your joint pain with lifestyle changes rather than medication, you may want to take an over-the-counter pain reliever when your joint pain seems to worsen with the weather. The ACR guidelines include a recommendation to use these over-the-counter pain relievers for osteoarthritis. However, Libman says that, âto avoid side effects, take the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time, and always check with your doctor first to make sure it is safe for you to take.
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Can The Weather Really Worsen Arthritis Pain
- By Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
If you have arthritis, you may have noticed that the weather affects your symptoms. I hear it from my patients all the time.
If its true that the weather can worsen arthritis pain, how does that work? Is there any scientific evidence to explain it? People have been asking these questions for many years without finding good answers. But thats not keeping researchers from trying to understand it better.
How To Prevent Getting Sick With Ra
When you have RA, you may find yourself more susceptible to illnesses, which can make your RA worse. During the fall and winter, viruses go around a lot quicker due to the shifts in temperature and more time people spent indoors and close to one another, so it is important to take the necessary precautions for fighting off the cold or flu.
This includes remembering to wash your hands any time you come in contact with something communal , staying hydrated, and covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough.
If you work with vulnerable populations, such as elderly people or young people under the age of five, ensure you are extra vigilant with your health practices. These populations are both more likely to carry a cold or the flu, and you are more likely to pass it on to them.
You should also speak to your doctor about getting the flu shot to ensure you dont get the dreaded disease. The flu can knock you off your feet for quite a long time and make your RA a lot worse than it needs to be, so prevention is a great way to make sure you dont fall victim to it.
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Risk For Ra From Colder Environments
A cold working environment might increase the risk of developing RA, according to a 2017 Swedish study. In this study, researchers relied on self-reported information on work environments, which included cold indoor and cold outdoor settings, to better understand overall risk and inflammatory markers associated with RA development.
Researchers also investigated how the stress of an occupational physical workload might affect the development of RA in combination with a colder work setting. Based on questionnaires, study participants were categorized by work environmentindoor cold versus outdoor cold presently and in the past.
They also looked at physical workload factors, including bending, lifting, and hand and finger repetitive movements. Researchers found the risk for RA was 1.5 times higher for people who worked in outdoor cold environments and 1.7 times higher for people working in indoor cold environments compared to people who hadnt worked in these types of settings.
The researchers further suggested the indoor cold environment posed a higher risk than the outdoor cold environment because there wasnt always a temperature consistency in the indoor setting. They added that differences in how people were affected by cold could also play a part in how these occupational environments might trigger RA.
The Benefits Of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles, as well as your immune system. You get most of your vitamin D from direct sunlight when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays.
According to Cancer Research UK, the length of time you need in the sun to make enough vitamin D depends on skin type, time of day or year, and where you are in the world.
There are no set guidelines on how much time is needed in the sun, but those with lighter skins may need just 10 minutes of sunlight every day in the UK, while those with darker skin may need around 25 minutes.
There are guidelines on vitamin D supplementation for everyone in the UK, says Professor Walker-Bone. But if youre worried about your vitamin D levels and joint pain, its important to get advice from your GP or rheumatology team. They can check your vitamin D levels, ideally in the winter months when they are likely to be lower.
Some people find their psoriasis gets better when theyre out in the sun, but more research is needed to see if sunlight helps psoriatic arthritis.
Natural sunlight can help skin psoriasis, but doesnt seem to help joint symptoms, says Professor WalkerBone. Many people with psoriatic arthritis dont have very bad skin, so PUVA treatment cant help.
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How Changing Weather Causes Pain
Many think its due to higher humidity accompanied by falling barometric pressure the weight of air pressing on our planet and on us. Decreasing pressure means air presses less on our bodies. That allows tissues to swell slightly, and its possible the resulting enlargement of tissues irritates the joints.
Cooler temperatures dont help. Cold can make muscles, ligaments and joints stiffer and more painful.
When barometric pressure and temperature fall and humidity rises, patients will complain of more aches and pains, he says. Damp cold seems to exacerbate pain.
But Dr. Bolash also says its more the change in pressure, temperature and humidity that could trigger discomfort. Especially the speed at which these changes occur.
Reporting is also key here, as it may be the reason people conclude what appears to be a direct connection of weather to their specific type of pain. Some studies include data pointing to patients seeking care for certain types of pain during rainy weather.
Those with arthritis, neck pain or other types of musculoskeletal issues tend to report most weather-related pain, says Dr. Bolash. But weather doesnt appear to alter reporting connected to nerve pain conditions, like complex regional pain syndrome or neuropathy.
What Are The 5 Worst Foods To Eat If You Have Arthritis
The 5 Best and Worst Foods for Those Managing Arthritis Pain Trans Fats. Trans fats should be avoided since they can trigger or worsen inflammation and are very bad for your cardiovascular health. Gluten. Refined Carbs & White Sugar. Processed & Fried Foods. Nuts. Garlic & Onions. Beans. Citrus Fruit.
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Do Light Exercise To Help With Stiffness
Weight-bearing exercise is particularly important for people with RA, and much more so in the fall and winter as it keeps your joints and muscles moving. Exercise is also an important aspect to keep you from developing osteoarthritis, but even more so, it can help prevent the dreaded morning stiffness.
Of course, this doesnt mean you need to become a triathlete overnight, but it does mean you should start incorporating an exercise routine into your schedule. If youre out of shape, try making small goals at first like walking the dog around the block every day or taking a short walk down the road for some fresh air.
You can also start off with some swimming , or taking a gentle yoga class. A full-on workout routine isnt necessary, as long as youre getting in some cardio every day and making sure youre doing weight-bearing exercises.
However, it is important to note that exercising during a flare is not helpful. You should always get your doctors go-ahead before you start a new exercise routine.
But, exercising when youre not in a flare can help prevent flares in the future, so it isnt a great idea to go too long without establishing one. If you find that exercise is painful, take a pain pill 30 minutes to an hour before you start your exercise routine. This should help cut down on pain significantly.
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Focusing On Negativity And Pessimism
Simply put, it takes a positive attitude, rather than a negative or pessimistic one, to achieve positive results. It is logical that you need a positive approach to stay on track with your treatment regimen, exercise routine, diet, and more. You must believe in the goal. In a study published in December 2018 in The Clinical Journal of Pain, researchers found that optimism and mental resilience were associated with less pain severity in people with or at risk for knee osteoarthritis.
What Exactly Is Arthritis
Arthritis, or joint inflammation, describes swelling and tenderness of one or more of the joints. Its main symptoms include joint pain, swelling and stiffness. Arthritis is a general term for a group of over 100 diseases causing inflammation and swelling in and around the joints.
Joint inflammation is a natural response of the body to a disease or injury, but becomes arthritis when the inflammation persists in the absence of joint injury or infection. Arthritis usually worsens with age and may even lead to a loss of joint movement.
There are different types of arthritis such as:
- Warm skin over the joints
- Redness of the skin over the joints
- Reduced range of movement.
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Protecting Your Joints In The Winter
Here are steps you can take to help ease the pain or reduce the risk of your symptoms worsening in colder weather:
Wear warm, protective clothing. Layering your clothing is best for warmth. To protect your hands, wear mittens instead of gloves, but if you must wear gloves, look for compression gloves. Protect your feet with warm socks and boots.
Use heat packs. Small heat packs in your pockets can keep your hands warm while you are outside.
Use heating pads on your sore joints. Be sure to have fabric between the pad and your skin, and dont use a high enough heat to cause a burn. If you have , speak with your doctor or diabetes team before using heat on your feet or toes.
Move around as much as you can. Exercise can help loosen , reducing pain. If you live in an area with ice and snow that make walking outside dangerous, consider joining a gym or indoor activity, like dancing or tai chi. Walking around the mall is exercise too.
- Look into mood-altering techniques if you find your mood is affected in the winter, which could contribute to more . Try using a light for seasonal affective disorder , meditation, or yoga to keep a calm mind and reduce stress.
You dont have to dread the winter months with RA. If you find cold weather worsens your symptoms, talk with your doctor about treatments or other lifestyle tips that can keep you moving with less pain all year long.
Wear The Right Clothing
People with skin problems due to psoriasis may find natural, soft, breathable fabrics, such as cotton, are less likely to irritate or trigger skin changes.
To stay warm in winter, a person with psoriasis and PsA might try wearing a base layer of cotton and adding layers of warmer fabrics.
Wearing cotton base layers such as long-sleeved cotton tops, leggings, or long johns can help prevent contact between the skin and irritating fibers in outer garments.
Various brands of long johns and other thermal clothes are available online. A 100%-cotton fleece can provide a warm outer layer.
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Association Between Rainfall And Diagnoses Of Joint Or Back Pain: Retrospective Claims Analysis
- Accepted 1 November 2017
Limitations Of This Study
Our study has limitations. Most importantly, we lacked detail on disease severity to definitively exclude higher rates of joint or back pain related to rainfall. Moreover, although we had detailed data on utilization of primary care, we lacked information on use of drugs during periods of pain exacerbation patients could self manage symptoms by taking over-the-counter analgesics, which would not be detectable in our data. We also relied on administrative data, which is primarily focused on conditions rather than symptoms, which means that patients with joint or back pain related conditions who were seen by their physician for an unrelated symptom may have administrative diagnosis codes for both conditions. Our approach, however, assumed that a small but statistically identifiable relative increase in joint or back pain may still occur during rainy versus non-rainy days. Finally, we focused on older patients and studied rainfall specifically, rather than other weather conditions such as humidity, barometric pressure, or temperature.
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How Is Arthritis Treated
Theres no cure for arthritis, but there are treatments that can help you manage the condition. Your treatment plan will depend on the severity of the arthritis, its symptoms and your overall health.
Conservative treatments include:
- Medication: Anti-inflammatory and pain medications may help relieve your arthritis symptoms. Some medications, called biologics, target your immune systems inflammatory response. A healthcare provider may recommend biologics for your rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis.
- Physical therapy: Rehabilitation can help improve strength, range of motion and overall mobility. Therapists can teach you how to adjust your daily activities to lessen arthritic pain.
- Therapeutic injections: Cortisone shots may help temporarily relieve pain and inflammation in your joints. Arthritis in certain joints, such as your knee, may improve with a treatment called viscosupplementation. It injects lubricant to help joints move smoothly.
So What To Do To Prevent The Aches And Pains
During winter dressing warmly is the key. Paying special attention to the head, hands and feet, as majority of heat is lost from the body’s extremities. Some helpful winter dressing tips include:
- Wear loose layers when going outdoors. Layers traps body heat to keep you warm.
- Wear mittens or gloves to protect your hands.
- Wear a hat or beanie to protect your head.
- Wear a scraf to protect your neck.
- Wear socks and waterproof boots to avoid getting feet wet or damp.
The cold and damp weather can also cause changes to peoples exercise plans. We have an instinct during winter to hibernate however, a lack of physical activity will cause joints to become stiff. Exercise eases arthritis pain. It increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and helps combat fatigue. To manage arthritic conditions during the cooler months, individuals need to plan physical activities that are easy to do during winter, such as:
- Walking indoors, such as around shopping centres
- Household chores, like vacuuming
- Swimming indoors, such as Hydrotherapy
- Taking an aerobics or yoga class
- Listening to music and dancing
- Using the stairs instead of the elevator
- Stretching or doing light exercises while watching TV
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Anything that keeps you moving works.
So when your joints start to warn you of miserable weather ahead, plan a warm routine of indoor exercise, rustle up your cosy clothing, or book yourself a two month holiday to a warmer destination!
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