How to Manage Winter Joint Pain in 8 Steps
Do you have a “weather knee” that hurts every time the temperature drops? You’re not alone – many people experience joint pain associated with seasonal and weather changes. A number of health conditions can cause joint pain, stiffness, and inflammation, but no matter the underlying cause, it’s always important to listen to your body and treat joint pain and inflammation before it causes permanent damage. Joint pain can prevent you from working, taking care of your family, and doing the things you enjoy. Fortunately, you can take steps to manage your winter joint pain this season.
Why Do My Joints Hurt More in the Winter?
While researchers haven’t pinpointed the exact reasons joints hurt more in the winter, many attribute winter joint pain to lower barometric pressure in the atmosphere. Barometric pressure is the amount of pressure in the air; high barometric pressure exerts a lot of air pressure against your body, somewhat like pressing your hand against a sore joint to stop pain while low barometric pressure, which is common during the cold and rain of weather, does not press as hard against your sore joints. Without pressure to support your achy joints, low barometric pressure allows the tendons, muscles, and tissues surrounding your joints to expand into the small, confined space within your body. This expansion causes achy joints in the winter.
If you have arthritis, you may be especially vulnerable to achy joints in the winter. Arthritis is a condition in which the cartilage that cushions your bones wears down, exposing nerves that can sense the changes in air pressure. Changes in barometric pressure can also cause the tendons, muscles, and any scar tissue present to expand and contract to cause pain in your joints. The low temperatures of winter can also thicken the fluid inside your joints, causing your joints to feel stiffer.
While you cannot change the weather, you can take steps to manage your joint pain this winter.
Manage Your Joint Pain this Winter with These 8 Easy Steps
1. Dress in Layers
Dressing in layers creates pockets of warm air that acts like insulation to protect you from the cold. This helps you maintain a healthy body temperature and reduces the shock of cold weather. Be sure the layers are loose enough to allow for good circulation.
Arthritis affects your bones, but it can also affect your muscles, tendons, and other tissues. Exercise helps you develop strong muscles that help protect and support your joints. Strong muscles also put less pressure on your joints to keep arthritis pain at bay. In fact, people with arthritis who exercise experience less pain, better sleep, and improved day-to-day function than do those who are inactive.
Engaging in a variety of exercises helps. Therapeutic exercises prescribed by health professionals can address specific joints affected by arthritis, for example. Recreational exercises, such as walking or swimming, are also safe and effective for reducing arthritic joint pain.
3. Laser therapy
Laser therapy uses concentrated red and near-infrared light to target pain in a specific area in your body. The light activates the mitochondria inside your body cells. Commonly known as the “powerhouses of cells,” mitochondria turn oxygen and the sugar in food into energy the cell uses to function. Activating the mitochondria with laser therapy helps your cells produce and transport energy better, which allows your body cells to function better. Stimulating the mitochondria can also produce a variety of effects that help manage arthritis symptoms, such as:
- Reducing pain by decreasing production bradykinin, a chemical in the body that promotes inflammation and pain
- Improves circulation by temporarily widening blood vessels, which allows more nutrients to reach the affected joints
- Widens lymphatic vessels, which allows excess fluids to drain away from painful joints
- Increased production of the body’s natural anti-inflammatory chemicals to resolve inflammation quickly
Degenerative forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis, respond well to laser therapy. You can even combine laser therapy with physical therapy, ice therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and a wide variety of other treatments to tackle joint pain all winter along. Laser therapy does not cause side effects and there is no downtime following treatment, so you can return to your normal activities immediately after your appointment.
4. Wear Compression Gloves
If you have arthritis or joint pain in your hands and wrists, compression gloves may help. Compression gloves alleviate joint pain in your hands in two ways: they keep your hands warm and they provide pain relief by applying gentle pressure to your achy joints. Many people prefer to wear them at night to keep hands limber and pain-free throughout the day.
5. Use Heating Pads or Wraps
Heat can melt away muscle pain and ease joint stiffness. Depending on which joint hurts and your activity level, heating pads and commercial heat wraps can provide relief.
Cold temperatures can cause your muscles to tighten up. Massage relaxes tense muscles and stimulates blood circulation, both of which can ease winter joint pain. Self-massage works well for many people with arthritis.
7. Avoid Unnecessary Strain on Your Joints
While exercise helps you reduce joint pain, some activities can worsen it. Prolonged standing can put pressure on arthritic joints, for example, as can remaining in one position for too long. Strenuous exercise and overuse can also worsen joint pain.
8. Enjoy Warm Drinks With Turmeric
Turmeric, also known as curcumin, is the root of a plant related to ginger. It is a staple of traditional Chinese and Indian medicine and a main ingredient in many curries. Turmeric also reduces pain, alleviates inflammation, and eases stiffness in the joints of those with rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or bursitis. A warm cup of turmeric tea with your favorite ingredients, such as cinnamon or raw honey, can help you manage winter joint pain.
You can combine many of these treatments to melt away joint pain this winter. If you experience any unusual pain, swelling or new symptoms affecting your joints, always consult with your doctor.