Winter can spell misery for the 45 million American who suffer from arthritis and whose bones and joints often ache worse during the cold weather months. Experts point out that a major cause for increased arthritis-related pain and stiffness in winter is the general tendency to live a more sedentary lifestyle when it’s cold outside.
Regular exercise has long been prescribed for those with arthritis as a way to manage pain. In addition to burning calories that help keep excess weight off, exercise keeps those with chronic pain positive and motivated. The Arthritis Foundation notes that exercise can help keep joints moving, strengthen muscles connected to joints, preserve bone health and improve overall health and fitness. Though the weather may make an outdoor walk or jog much less enticing, knowing that arthritis pain can be managed as a result may just be the motivation needed to get off the couch and get moving.
Extra incentive to keep warm during winter months
In addition to exercise, physicians recommend arthritis sufferers bundle up. Investing in a warm pair of slippers can protect joints in the feet that might otherwise be adversely affected by a cold bedroom or bathroom floor. For walks outside, warm waterproof gloves or mittens and footwear are a necessity. Experts recommend layering your clothing and selecting fabrics that whisk moisture away from the skin.
If you tend to keep the thermostat low to keep energy costs at bay, consider investing in a warm woolen blanket to drape over your lap while watching television or reading a book. Similarly, a space heater can do wonders.
Take control of your pain
Keep in close touch with your physician who can provide additional tips should the pain worsen in the cold. Just as exercise keeps extra weight off that might otherwise put undue strain on sore joints, eating a healthy diet will help keep arthritis pain at bay. Often our instincts in winter are to take in heavy comfort foods, but you could pay the price in extra pounds and resulting arthritis pain.
The Arthritis Foundation has a “Pain Center” on its website. It provides information on the following areas that might be of help to those newly diagnosed or looking for new ways to combat arthritis pain.
The Arthritis Foundation also publishes a magazine called Arthritis Today that provides information and support for those suffering from arthritis.
Additional resources for information on arthritis and managing the associated pain follow.
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention dedicates a section of its website to information on arthritis and pain management for the disease. The site also contains links to the CDC’s “A Cup of Health” podcast series on alleviating arthritis pain. Links to exercise regimens designed for those with arthritis also live on the CDC website.
- The American College of Rheumatology website contains comprehensive information on Rheumatoid arthritis.
- The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center shares information on current clinical studies and patient education materials, including a patient education video series on Rheumatoid Arthritis.
- The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases leads the federal government’s research effort into the causes, treatment and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases. On the Rheumatoid Arthritis section of the institute’s website, information on self care is provided.
In the video that follows from the Johnson & Johnson Health Channel, a woman diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at age 28 finds ways to manage her pain and quality of life through exercise and regular contact with her rheumatologist.