Cold weather and arthritis don’t mix, and this time of year can be hard on those of us who suffer with stiff joints.
Oh the weather outside is frightful, may be the beginning to one of your favorite holiday songs, but this sentiment can be especially true for women suffering from arthritis.
Up until a few years ago, I thought only the elderly dealt with arthritis. Oh my naivety. Little did I know, I myself would be feeling the effects of arthritis while only in my 30’s. Upon experiencing the telltale signs of joint pain, stiffness, redness, skin hot to the touch and inflammation of my own, eventually leading to a diagnosis of Psoriatic Arthritis, I quickly learned I knew nothing about arthritis or who this painful problem truly effects.
Who Gets Arthritis?
According to the Global RA Network, arthritis affects an estimated 350 million people worldwide, and in North America, “arthritis causes more disability than any other condition, including heart disease, diabetes, and back or spine problems.” That’s shocking! And it seems as though arthritis, and it’s debilitating repercussions, are not discussed enough for those of us outside of the osteoarthritis (arthritis in the elderly or caused by injuries and/or overuse) community.
There are over 100 types of arthritis. Many arthritis subtypes are related to autoimmunity, with Rheumatoid Arthritis being the most recognized and diagnosed. Psoriatic Arthritis, Ankylosing Spondyloarthritis, Axial Spondyloarthritis and Juvenile Arthritis are the next most identified types of autoimmune arthritis. Each disease attacks different areas of the body’s joints and/or associated tendons, but common symptoms of arthritis include the following:
- decreased range of motion
- permanent damage/disfigurement
Cold Weather and Arthritis go Together
Well, no one seems to know for sure why cold weather effects arthritis, but leading experts are seeing that changes in the barometric pressure, specifically lower barometric pressure which occurs when the temperature drops, may be the key behind the additional hurts.
How to Combat the Cold Weather with Arthritis
What’s a gal to do when the cold weather starts to seep in and your arthritis starts acting up?
There are several steps you can take to help ensure you don’t feel the full brunt of winter’s ramifications. Below I’ll share the top five things you can do to winter-proof your arthritis.
5 Top Ways to Tolerate Cold Weather and Arthritis
Here are my top 5 ways to tolerate cold weather and arthritis. No, it’s not going to be easy, but trust me, you can do this!
#1: Move Yo’ Body!
While exercise might be the last thing you want to do if your joints are cranky, it’s one of the best things you can do for them. Do something to move your body every day. Now let me be clear, when I say “move,” I don’t mean train for a marathon. Move simply mean just that: Move. Walking, gentle stretching activities like yoga or Pilates, swimming (but maybe only if you have access to an indoor or heated pool because otherwise, YIKES!), and strength training are all great activities that you can enjoy at whatever pace you choose. The important thing to remember is to be consistent and don’t over do it.
Movement is important on two fronts. Exercise helps to lubricate joints. This helps to keep your joints healthy and helps maintain movement of the joint itself. The other reason to get moving is that exercise releases happy brain chemicals, serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. Not only do these chemicals help with putting you in a better mental space, they also reduce pain in body!
#2: Get Your D Up
Vitamin D! Get your mind out of the gutter!
Vitamin D is vital for the body. Vitamin D supports the immune system and reduces inflammation throughout the body. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is prevalent all around the world, and it’s estimated that 50% of the population have an insufficient amount of vitamin D.
One of the best ways to raise your vitamin D is to get out into the sun! We naturally absorb a lot of vitamin D through our skin. Just 15-20 minutes in the sun, without sunscreen, is enough to boost your levels (if you are planning to stay outside any longer, go put that sunscreen on). Now, depending on where you live, there may not be much shine in the sky during the winter. That’s okay! Eating foods rich in vitamin D, like fish, egg yolks, spinach, kale and organ meats (I know, it sounds gross, but they are so nutrient dense!), or taking a vitamin D supplement can be great ways of making sure you have the right amount of D in your life.
#3: Dress For Warmth and Layer Your Clothing
This sounds obvious enough, but stay warm! Dress properly for whatever cold weather activities you plan on doing that day. Layering your clothes can be especially helpful so you can remove or add as needed. And while were on the subject of things to wear….
#4: Compression Gloves and Socks
Compression gloves and socks are designed to put just enough pressure on your hands and/or feet to relieve swelling and aches. By compressing the area the garment is on, circulation is improved which supplies blood to the arthritic affected area. Make sure your gloves or socks fit correctly through. Too tight or too loose and you will not feel the benefits.
#5: Have Fun!
Why is having fun on this list? Because sometimes, doing something you enjoy is the best medicine. During cold weather months, seasonal blues can seep in, and taking time to have fun can bust those funks. What makes you really, really happy? Spending time outdoors? Meeting friends for a coffee date? Playing board games with your kiddos? Sneaking off to a quiet corner of the house with a good book? Whatever happy looks like to you, do it!
Doing something that brings you joy can distract you from those less than pleasant things happening in your body. And remember those happy hormones I mentioned that get released during exercise? Doing anything that lights up your heart gives you the same result. So take some time for yourself to just revel in something you truly love.
Apply these Top 5 Things to your Arthritis in Cold Weather
Getting through the winter can be a pain… literally. By knowing areas you can address to combat the full strength of your arthritis ails, you are giving yourself the best chance at an enjoyable winter. Baby, it may be cold outside, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer.
*Note- Lauren Tarr recently wrote a great article about dealing with Raynaud’s Syndrome during the winter months. While arthritis and Raynaud’s are different diseases, Lauren shared a lot of helpful info in her piece that also to applies to arthritis. Go read her article here for some additional tips on how to handle cold weather with arthritis!
*DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor or health care professional. I am not licensed, nor qualified, to give medical or nutritional advice. This article is not meant to diagnose or treat, but is intended for informational purposes. I am sharing my experience as someone who has suffered with and continues to live with autoimmune disease. Please consult with a doctor, nutritionist or medical professional for any medical needs and/or questions.*