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Understanding joint pain in colder weather

By Leigh Ann Brandeberry, AGACNP-BC

Most of the arthritic population experiences joint pain with the change of weather.

Research still debates the true reason between joint pain changes and weather variation. Many patients report increased stiffness and aching joints occurring with colder weather months.

Our bodies contain multiple joints that are housing for sensory nerves. These nerve sites are sensitive to changes in pressures caused by the climate variations. These sensory nerves cause constriction of the joint linings or shrinkage. Constriction, or tightening of the blood vessels that supply nutrients to our joints, also induces joint pain, tenderness, and discomfort. When these conditions occur, joint pain increases in intensity.

Ways to decrease joint pain in colder weather …

Keep moving: Cold weather makes us want to be more sedentary and stay inside. Lack of movement increases joint stiffness. Find a local indoor walking facility close to your home to use three to five days a week. A low impact exercise routine decreases joint stiffness and promotes cardiovascular health.

Wear warm clothing: Loose layers of clothing keeps joints warmer. Do not leave your gloves in the cold vehicle; take them inside so they will be warm before wearing.

Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water. Hydration of the body prevents muscle fatigue. Adequate hydration to the muscles aids in supplying sufficient oxygen and nutrients. Water aids in removing toxin buildup in the body by flushing waste material through our kidneys and colon. Hydration promotes moisture of the skin, lips and mouth, preventing drying and cracking.

Be safe: Wear appropriate footwear with ample traction to prevent slips and falls. Use assistive devices and handrails when on unleveled surfaces.

Eat a healthy diet: A healthy balanced diet includes recommended fruits and vegetables. Diet plays a role in maintaining the strength of healthy bones and muscle structure. Healthy protein and carbohydrate intake fuels the body with energy and endurance. Avoid sugars, refined carbohydrates, Aspartame and saturated fats, all of which can cause inflammation in the joints.

Low temperature, precipitation and change in the barometric pressures are uncontrollable, yet may cause increase in joint pain and stiffness.

Incorporating some of these healthy habits may lead to a decrease stiffness and joint pain. A proactive lifestyle can help a patient avoid or alleviate uncomfortable pain due to changes in weather.