Does Cold Weather Cause Arthritis or Make It Worse?

Winter brings with it a plethora of health complications. Some of these conditions are referred to as ‘seasonal illnesses’ since the symptoms flare up during the cold season. During winter, one of the conditions that flare up is arthritis.

Arthritis is a condition that affects millions of people all over the world. Characterized by symptoms like pain in the joints and swelling, it is claimed that the symptoms get worse during the cold seasons.

What Is Cold Weather Arthritis?

Arthritis is a term that means joint inflammation. This condition has become increasingly common in people in older age groups. Women are more likely to develop arthritis than men. Symptoms of this condition include tenderness of the joints, joint stiffness, chronic pain as well as redness and swelling of these joints. While it can occur in most joints in the body, it is most common in the shoulder joints, hip joints, spine, and knee joints. During the cold weather, the pain in these joints flares up and becomes unbearable. Some scientists have attributed this phenomenon to the changes in barometric pressure brought about by the cold weather. Others argue that it is caused by the constriction of the blood vessels by nerves to reduce heat and keep the body warm. The argument here is that the activation of the nerves is what leads to the increased pain.

Even so, there has been a lot of research done to find the connection between arthritis and the cold weather, but all of them are inconclusive. The most common types of arthritis include:

1.    Osteoarthritis

This is a type of arthritis that affects limbs joints. It occurs when there is continuous degeneration of tissues that cushion the joints between bones. When this cushion is not there, the bones swell and this causes pain during movement. This type of arthritis can also occur as a result of an injury. 

2.    Rheumatoid Arthritis

This type of arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks and kills body cells. This causes the tissue between joints to swell. This makes flexibility and body movement a challenge. With time, it causes erosion of the bones.

3.    Psoriatic Arthritis

This occurs mostly in people who suffer from psoriasis. This is a skin disease characterized by dry, red and scaly patches on the skin. This occurs because of having an immune system that is over-reactive.

4.    Gout

This type of arthritis occurs when uric acid crystals find their way into the joints. It can spread from one joint to another and in various body parts. It can be very painful and render one immobile for a while.

Treatment for arthritis can include topical medicine and oral medicine, light exercising, weight loss and also healthy living. In some cases, joint replacement surgery may be required.

Cold Weather Effects on Arthritis

People with arthritis say that the warmer weather is more lenient to their symptoms as opposed to the cold weather.

  • Changes In Humidity – during the cold weather, there is a lot of damage done to the bone cells and cartilage and this causes cold weather arthritis symptoms to flare up. Also, cold weather increases sensitivity to joints. This intensifies the pain associated with arthritis.  
  • Pain Sensitivity - in general, your body becomes more sensitive during the cold season because of nerve stimulation. This means that people with arthritis have more sensitive and tender joints during the cold season. The flow of blood also increases in the cold season. This cause more blood to collect in the joints affected by arthritis and this causes swelling and redness. 
  • Reduction In Physical Activities – physical activity matters a lot. In warmer seasons, most people are active but the activity decreases as temperatures drop. It becomes hard for one to exercise and keep active in cold seasons. Most people with arthritis suffer a flare-up of the symptoms because they are not as active in cold season as they are in warmer seasons. This stiffens their joints and causes the pain to worsen when they move. 

How to Relieve Pain Caused by Arthritis

There are a few measures one can take to reduce joint stiffness and pain in the cold season when suffering from arthritis.

1.    Dress Warmer

Covering your joints properly to provide insulation during the cold season can go a long way in relieving the pain. Scarves, socks, jackets and warm winter clothes can also be work. This ensures that body heat is not lost and that the joints do not stiffness from the cold.  Also, wearing clothes that are right can help to bring down the inflammation. There are therapy gloves available in the market for specifically helping people suffering from arthritis.

2.    Stay Active

For everyone, exercise and keeping active is important for their wellbeing. It is even more important for people with arthritis. A little light exercise can go a long way in ensuring that stiffness doesn’t occur. Yoga, stretching and walking are considered to be enough exercises for people with arthritis.

Regular massages on affected joints are also recommended as they get the blood flowing and this keeps the joints warm.

3.    Eating Nutritious Meals

Eating foods that offer the body the required nutrients also plays a major role when it comes to relieving symptoms of arthritis. Calcium and vitamin D are the essential nutrients required by people suffering from arthritis. Calcium helps to regenerate the bones while vitamin D absorbs the calcium.

4.    Adapt Better Lifestyle Habits

It is important for people with cold weather arthritis to adapt to new lifestyle habits that can work to help them deal better with the condition. Weight loss, eating healthy meals and exercising all go hand in hand to relieve pain and symptoms associated with arthritis. Weight loss helps because it reduces the amount of weight the joints have to deal with. Being overweight or too heavy places a lot of pressure on the knees and hip joints, which increases the risk of impairment. 

5.    See a Doctor

If you are suffering from arthritis, it is wise to seek the services of an expert. There are different types of arthritis conditions and each of them requires different methods to treat. While the above methods may work in all, it is also ideal if you seek the counsel of a doctor. Types of medications that may be administered to help deal with the pain include DMARDs, NSAIDs, analgesics, and corticosteroids among others.

 
 
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