Cold weather doesn’t have to cause achy joints. Here are some practical things you can do to reduce winter joint pain.
Along with snow-filled sidewalks and icy roads, the winter months bring another unwelcome guest — aching joints and muscles. People with arthritis know that when the temperatures drop, their joint pain rises. Yet joint pain and stiffness can affect anyone in the colder weather, not just people with arthritis.
You may be tempted to wait until spring for the joint pain to subside, but you don’t have to. All you need to do is make some easy lifestyle changes to alleviate your winter joint pain.
Why your joints ache more in the winter
So why do your joints ache more in the winter? There are several theories, but no definitive answer. Colder temperatures slow down circulation, which leads to stiffness and pain as joint muscles and tendons contract. Muscles and tendons also stiffen up when we’re less active in the winter months.
For arthritis sufferers, colder weather may cause increased pain and stiffness due to changes in barometric pressure, or the weight of the air around us. When the barometric pressure drops in the winter, tendons and muscles around joints swell. Because these tissues have limited space to expand, the joints become achy and stiff. One study proved this theory, finding a link between changes in barometric pressure and an increase in arthritic knee pain.
Six tips to alleviate joint pain the winter
If you suffer from wintertime joint pain, you’re probably not as interested in the exact cause, but more so in how to reduce your aches and stiffness. You can do that with these six tips:
Stay warm. In the winter months, it’s more important than ever to keep your muscles warm at all times. Soak in a hot tub, apply a heating pad to stiff joints, or wrap yourself in a heated blanket.
Layer up. When venturing outside to exercise or run errands, layer up in hats, gloves, socks, and thermal underwear to prevent the chill from reaching your joints.
Stay active. Don’t stop your exercise routine just because it’s cold outside. Instead, take your workouts indoors to a swimming pool, yoga class, or home treadmill. Or, you can take a brisk walk outdoors — just make sure you bundle up! These gentle aerobic exercises not only stretch your muscles and keep them flexible, they’re also less stressful on your joints.
Eat right. While eating right is a must all year round, you’ll want to choose foods in the winter months to reduce inflammation and pain. Foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids such as nuts and salmon fight inflammation. Green, leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach are not only very healthy for you, but can lessen you pain, too. People with arthritis can up their intake of vitamin C fruits and vegetables (oranges, tomatoes, red peppers) to make their joints less achy. On the other hand, avoid foods that may trigger inflammation, specifically, corn oil and refined grains. Go for high-fiber grains, instead.
Watch your weight. It’s easy to indulge in treats and comfort foods high in calories during the cold winter months, but those extra pounds add strain to your joints, making them stiff and achy. Keep the stress off your joints by maintaining your ideal weight.
Hydrate. Even in the wintertime your body sweats, and the drier air saps your body of moisture. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Don’t want to drink cold water? Sip a warm cup of tea or broth to get your fluid intake.
Don’t let winter joint pain get you down
If your joints feel tired and achy, visit the doctors and physical therapists at New York Bone & Joint Specialists. Working together, we’ll find ways to make the winter season enjoyable and pain-free with a customized treatment plan. Contact us today for a consultation.