Winter and arthritis: Top tips to help alleviate cold-related flare ups

Cold-related arthritis refers to increased sensitivity and pain experienced by a person with arthritis as a direct result of cooler temperatures. Source: Getty Images.

If you’re someone who experiences arthritis, you’re probably familiar with the impact that cold weather can have on joint discomfort.

During the colder months, it can often feel like the weather is working against you, and the resulting inflammation in your joints can gradually become unbearable.

Fortunately, you no longer have to suffer in silence.

Starts at 60 has compiled a comprehensive list of preventive measures and management tips that may assist you in alleviating arthritis flares during the cold season.

What is cold-related arthritis pain?

Cold-related arthritis refers to increased sensitivity and pain experienced by a person with arthritis as a direct result of cooler temperatures.

Although the cold doesn’t cause arthritis, it can certainly increase the development of uncomfortable aches and pains, leaving you particularly uncomfortable in colder environments.

Research has found that cold weather can affect both inflammatory (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus arthritis) and non-inflammatory arthritis sufferers (arthritis of thyroid disease, arthritis after injury, osteoarthritis).

However, scientists are yet to pinpoint an exact reason for weather-related arthritis flare-ups.

So, how can you minimise symptoms of cold-related arthritis pain?

Keep warm

Staying warm and staying active is the key to managing arthritis in cold weather. This applies to everyone, regardless of whether they have arthritis or not.

Make it a habit to dress warmly, ensuring that you cover as much of your body as possible. Opt for warm clothing such as long pants, shirts, woolen jackets, gloves, beanies, scarves, and socks. By keeping the cold air out and trapping the warm air in, you’ll provide much-needed relief to your joints.

To create a cozy environment indoors, close the windows, turn on the heater (if available), and layer up with additional blankets or clothing. Using an electric blanket can also be a practical way to maintain a consistent level of warmth throughout your body.

Keeping our bodies warm helps to support the natural balance known as homeostasis. This promotes normal blood circulation, regulates pressure within membranes and muscles, and helps prevent inflammatory responses.

By maintaining a healthy circulatory system, our bodies can heal more efficiently and respond effectively to any inflammation.

Exercise regularly

Cold weather often leads to a common challenge: increased procrastination when it comes to exercise.

However, exercise is a well-established remedy for keeping joints warm, flexible, and strong, making it even more crucial during the colder months. The cold can make us feel irritable and lethargic, which can dampen our motivation to stay active.

For individuals with arthritis, decreased mobility can have detrimental effects and exercise is an essential component of arthritis management and overall well-being, especially during the colder months.

By staying active, you can improve circulation, manage pain, increase muscle and bone strength, combat stiffness, regulate hormones, and maintain a healthy weight.

Compression gloves

Cold weather can have significant effects on the body’s blood flow often leading to joint swelling and severe discomfort, especially for individuals with arthritis.

Wearing compression gloves can provide valuable support and promote proper blood flow through the joints.

This, in turn, can have a positive impact on joint mobility and comfort, effectively managing pain without relying on medication.

However, if compression gloves are not readily available, another option worth considering is using mittens, as they help to offer warmth.

Diet and lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle is crucial for reducing inflammation in the body, especially for individuals with arthritis.

Foods rich in antioxidants, particularly activated phenolics, play a major role in combating inflammation.

It is important to include all the recommended vitamins and minerals in your diet while ensuring a healthy balance of food groups. This approach ensures that your body receives proper nourishment, reducing the likelihood of arthritis flare-ups.

Thankfully, winter produce such as beetroot, carrot, apple, sweet potato, and broccoli are naturally abundant in antioxidants.

Activated phenolics are antioxidants that are easily absorbed and utilised by our body cells. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids play a role in combating inflammation.

It’s wise to limit the consumption of things such as alcohol, fatty or fried foods, and to quit smoking or vaping as these factors can trigger an inflammatory response in the body, setting off a chain reaction where inflammation spreads throughout the body, causing devastating effects.

While it may seem unrelated, never underestimate the profound impact of the gut-body connection.

This article was originally published on June 11, 2022, and has been updated on June 17, 2024. 

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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