Winter might mean cozy blankets, fun activities and pretty sights. But it can also herald body aches and joint pain.
Staying active and stretching can help prevent joint pain in winter. However, you should speak to your doctor if you are experiencing prolonged or extreme pain.
There isn’t a proven explanation for why cold weather impacts joints. One theory is that drops in barometric pressure cause tendons, muscles and tissues around the joints to expand. Another plausible theory is that your body redirects heat to internal organs when you are cold. Joints are less necessary to survival than organs, so your body prioritizes them, and the temperature change causes joint function to be painful. A Tufts Univ. study found that join fluid is thicker in cold weather. No matter the root cause, it puts people with chronic pain or arthritis at higher risk for discomfort.
Even if you are stuck indoors because of the weather, walking around your home is good for your joints. And maintaining a healthy weight prevents excess stress on your body. Building and maintaining muscle also aids joint health. And remember to keep yourself warm by dressing in layers during the cold months.
Eating a healthy diet can help. Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and nuts can cut down on inflammation. Vitamin K-rich foods like dark leafy greens such as kale, cabbage and spinach can ease pain. And vitamin C-rich foods can slow the cartilage loss that accompanies arthritis.
You can also treat pain as it occurs with topical creams or ointments. They can’t cure the problem, but they can offer some relief. Speak to your doctor before using them to ensure the one you choose is right for you. One option you don’t have to discuss with your doctor is warm baths to help ease your joints and take weight off them. A hot shower can be great, but it won’t offer as much relief for your knees. Hot tubs are an excellent option if you have access to one, as they warm you to your core.
You can also speak to your doctor about going to a physical therapist. Many forms of insurance will cover it. A physical therapist can increase your range of motion and help reduce aches in your joints as you are able to move them more. They can do forms of massages and therapies and teach you exercises to do in the future to prevent future pain.
While joint pain often accompanies winter weather, it doesn’t have to be something you accept as a fact of life. By speaking to your doctor and taking preventative steps, you can be more comfortable this winter.