Ever heard the old wives’ tale that aching joints predict weather changes? There’s actually something to it: studies show that dropping pressure in barometric pressure chambers actually does make people feel arthritic aches and pains more acutely. That’s why when winter weather hits, you may feel your joints start aching more fiercely. Use the following arthritis pain-relief tips for relief.
Arthritis Relief Tips
- Dress in Warm Layers
If the weather outside is cold and frightful, put gloves on your aching hands and add extra layers over your knees and legs. You can try felt-lined jeans, or extra tights or leggings to keep you warm. When you wear layers, you can control your comfort level more easily as temperatures change throughout the day. For example, you can layer a few pairs of thin gloves on your hands and peel them off, one by one, as needed.
- Keep hydrated
If you live in a dry, cold climate, make sure you’re drinking enough water. Staying hydrated helps you stay active and decreases joint pain since the increased water helps lubricate your joints. Remember: even mild dehydration might make you more sensitive to pain, according to study results published in Experimental Physiology.
- Exercise Indoors
It makes sense to want to stay out of the winter cold. However, people with arthritic joint pain should be active, for better health overall and less joint pain. In fact, the more active you are, the better your overall health and function, according to a study published in Arthritis Care & Research. Come up with an indoor exercise plan. For example, you could buy a treadmill or an elliptical trainer to use at home, or start walking in the mall.
There are more benefits to exercise than weight loss. Keeping moving helps your joints stay flexible. Exercises such as running and walking, which put weight on your joints, can be damaging to them. Try low-impact activities such as water aerobics or swimming to flex your joints without adding further stress.
Don’t forget to be safe. When conditions turn icy, arthritis sufferers need to protect their joints from further damage and stress. When heading outside, choose solid, supportive shoes with good treads and try to stay on firm, non-slick surfaces. Though it may damage your dignity a bit, remember to center your gravity over your feet and “penguin walk” to keep the likelihood of slipping at a minimum.
- Hot and Cold Therapy
Swimming in a heated pool or spa can be both great exercise and soothing to aching joints. Warm baths can also help, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Be careful about going out into cold weather right after you’ve soaked, as the sudden temperature change can make joint pain flare up. Let your body temperature adjust first.
Besides spas, swimming pools and baths, there are other simple hot and cold treatments that bring huge relief for arthritis pain. Long, warm morning showers or baths help ease stiffness in your joints that may have accumulated overnight. You can try using an electric blanket, hot water bottle or moist heating pad to keep your joints from stiffening during the night.
Cold treatments are often recommended for relief of joint swelling, pain and overall inflammation. Try wrapping gel ice packs or a bag of frozen peas or other veggies in a towel and apply them to your painful joints for quick relief.
- Supplements for Arthritis Relief
If your body has low levels of vitamin D, that might be making you more sensitive to arthritis pain, according to Pain Management research. Having low levels of Vitamin D in your body also increases your risk of developing osteoporosis. However, the way your body naturally makes Vitamin D–through sunlight–is less available during the wintertime. You may want to talk to your doctor about adding a Vitamin D supplement or adding more Vitamin D-fortified foods to your diet.
Keep in mind that no herbal supplements have been definitely proven to provide arthritis pain relief in clinical studies, and the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) does not recommend substances such as glucosamine-chondroitin for arthritis. However, some people living with arthritis do report relief from taking these supplements. Talk to your doctor about potential safety concerns with using these and other supplements.
- Other supplements that some arthritis sufferers have reported effective include:
- devil’s claw
- stinging nettle
- thunder god vine
- omega-3 fatty acids (see below)
- gamma-linolenic acid (see below)
One encouraging development is that Omega-3 fatty acids seem to reduce the overall level of joint inflammation. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation recommends up to 2.6 grams of fish oil capsules–which contain high levels of Omega-3s–twice a day. Let your doctor know if you decide to start a regimen of Omega-3s, as they include side effects, such as increasing your risk for bruising or bleeding.
Another fatty acid that can help arthritis inflammation is gamma-linolenic acid or GLA. GLA is found in plants such as evening primrose, borage, hemp, and blackcurrant. You can buy oils derived from the seeds of these plants in many health food stores or online.
Don’t forget to talk to your doctor before trying a new supplement. They may be able to help you avoid side effects and dangerous drug interactions with other drugs you’re already taking. Keep in mind that the US FDA doesn’t regulate herbs for quality, purity, or safety.
- Arthritis relief through weight loss
Any extra weight you carry can make a significant impact on the amount of pain you experience from arthritis. Extra body weight puts continuous pressure on your joints, especially your knees, hips, and feet. By losing weight, you’ll reduce the stress on your joints, and you’ll increase mobility, decrease pain, and avoid future joint damage.
- The effects of meditation and stress-reducing techniques
Another approach for arthritis relief focuses not on the body, but the mind and emotions. In fact, the NIH has discovered that mindfulness meditation is helpful for some people with joint-related pain. When your stress is reduced, you may find that you’re able to cope with your pain better, and inflammation and thus swelling decrease.
- Massage Therapy
Indulge yourself and get a massage. It’s not just for stress relief, though that can help. Arthritis pain radiates from the joint and some from the muscles around the joint. Getting an hour-long massage around once a week for at least eight weeks has been shown to reduce pain, according to The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
The Arthritis Foundation recommends regular massage of arthritic joints for helping reduce pain and stiffness and improving your range of motion. You should either ask a physical therapist to teach you self-massage of your joints or schedule regular appointments with a massage therapist. Check with your doctor for a massage therapist recommendation, if you need one.
- Acupuncture for arthritis relief
Acupuncture is another option for those willing to consider non-traditional treatments. Some patients report gaining some pain relief from this ancient Chinese therapy, according to research in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical therapeutic treatment that consists of the insertion of thin needles into specific body points. Allegedly, this technique reroutes body energy and restores physical balance. Acupuncture is probably the most researched natural health therapy. In fact, it’s recommended by the WHO for treatment of over 100 different conditions. Arthritis pain is one of those conditions that may be treatable by acupuncture. If you want to look into this treatment method, be sure to find a state-certified and licensed acupuncturist.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) medications for temporary arthritis pain relief
For longer lasting effects, lifestyle changes or other treatments are better than simple OTC pain relievers. However, you may want to take an OTC pain reliever when your joint pain seems to worsen with the weather until you can get “on top of it” with other methods. Avoid side effects by taking the lowest recommended dose for the shortest time, and be sure to talk with your doctor first to make sure this particular OTC pain reliever is safe for you to take.