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    13 Arthritis Pain Relief Strategies for Winter Weather


    You can still get relief from arthritis pain despite the cold winter temperatures.

    Many arthritis sufferers swear that the discomfort in their joints is a sign of cold or rainy weather. Pam Snow, 54, a Denver resident with arthritis, says, “I used to hear people complaining all the time about the aching in the knees.” “Now, I’m one those people!”

    Snow has osteoarthritis of both her knees. Snow manages her pain by following a healthy diet and exercising. Snow also uses an occasional over-the counter pain reliever when necessary. Snow is particularly vulnerable to joint pain in winter. She believes it is related to barometric pressure. “It certainly has made me more aware of the weather.”

    Snow sees arthritis as more than a personal issue. She travels throughout Colorado to educate others about arthritis as vice president of community involvement at the Colorado Arthritis Foundation. She is aware of the fact that there is very little scientific evidence supporting her experience and the experiences of many others suffering from arthritis.

    Bonita S. Liman, MD, professor of medicine, division chief of rheumatology, and clinical immunology at University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington, says that “in terms of really trying scientifically to study it, [research] has been rather sparse, contradictory.” Dr. Libman says that many people feel that the weather can affect their symptoms.

    She believes that there might be some truth in the old wives’ tale about aching joints being a sign of a change in the weather. According to some studies that Libman is familiar from, which the Arthritis Foundation cites as an example, people who were placed in pressure chambers at barometric pressure felt more pain and aches.

    Arthritis Relief: How to Find It

    These arthritis pain-relief tips can be used regardless of whether the weather connection between joint pain and winter is scientifically valid.

    1. Dress warm

    Keep your hands warm when it’s cold by wearing gloves and adding layers to the legs and knees. Snow says that she loves wearing dresses and skirts. “So when it gets cold, I also wear leggings or tights to keep warm.”

    2. Layer up

    Snow, who recently moved from Birmingham, Alabama to Denver, said she enjoys being outdoors and that she has learned to be comfortable in Colorado’s changing temperatures. She layers several pairs of gloves on her hands, and can take them off one by one as she needs.

    3. Hydrate

    Snow discovered that she began drinking more water after moving to Colorado’s drier climate. She says that staying hydrated has really helped her stay active. According to research published in Experimental Physiology’s September 2015 issue, even mild dehydration can make you more sensitive.

    4. Lose Weight

    Snow weighed 172 lbs when she moved to Colorado in 2013. Her new doctor said she was obese at 5’6″.

    “I heard the ‘O’ word, and thought, Well, I don’t feel obese. She says that she was constantly watching what my clothes fit to see how much weight I had. She wore a size 14 at the time. She decided to lose weight. Now, she weighs approximately 158 pounds and is a size 10. For some of her success, she credits Colorado’s more active culture. She says, “There’s always somebody to walk with.”

    RELATED: 9 Arthritis Pain Relief Tips From People Who Know

    Her arthritis also improved in colder weather, even though her activity level and weight increased. A 2013 JAMA article highlighted the remarkable improvement that people suffering from knee arthritis can see from weight loss, diet and exercise.

    5. Exercise Inside

    It’s natural to want to avoid the winter chill but people suffering from joint pain should not stop being active. According to a March 2015 study that looked at knee arthritis patients, those who are less active have better physical function. Create an indoor exercise program. Snow can use an elliptical trainer and a treadmill at home. Libman suggests walking to the mall.


    6. Warm water can comfort you

    Swimming in a heated swimming pool can be both therapeutic and great for your joints. According to the Arthritis Foundation, warm baths can provide relief. After your warm bath, don’t go out in the cold. Allow your body to adjust to normal temperatures.

    7. Supplement Vitamin D

    Research in the September 2015 issue Pain Management suggests that low levels of vitamin D could play a role when you feel more sensitive to arthritis pain. Libman says that being deficient in vitaminD can also increase the risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin D is less likely to be obtained from sunlight in winter so make sure to talk to your doctor to determine if you need supplements or vitamin D-fortified food.

    8. Stay Safe

    People with arthritis should protect their joints, especially when it gets cold. Libman recommends that you wear sturdy, supportive shoes with good treads if you plan to go outside. Also, avoid walking on slick surfaces.

    9. Try a Glucosamine-Chondroitin Supplement

    Although no herbal supplements have been proven to provide arthritis pain relief in clinical studies, and the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) does not recommend glucosamine-chondroitin for arthritis, Libman says that some of her patients do report relief from taking these supplements. She says, “What I tell patients is that if they have the money and are willing to try it, it seems like a low-risk treatment for pain.”

    10. Fish oil can be added

    Libman states that Omega-3 fatty acids have some benefits as they appear to lower inflammation. The Arthritis Foundation suggests taking 2.6g of fish oil capsules two times daily. You should inform your doctor if you take omega-3s. They can increase your risk of bleeding and bruising.

    11. Take a look at Acetaminophen and NSAIDs

    Even if you, like Snow prefer to manage your joint pain through lifestyle changes over medication, it is possible to use an over-the counter pain reliever if your joint pain worsens with the weather. These over-the-counter pain reliefs are recommended by the ACR guidelines for osteoarthritis. Libman advises that you should not take these over-the-counter pain relievers for osteoarthritis for side effects. You should also make sure to consult your doctor before taking any medication.

    12. Take a massage

    You are allowed to indulge in a massage. “A lot of the pain that’s occurring in terms of it being painful is [that] some is coming from the joints and some is coming from the muscles around them,” Libman explains. According to research published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine’s June 2015 issue, a one-hour massage for eight weeks is effective in reducing pain.

    13. Get Under the Needle

    For those who are open to non-traditional therapies, acupuncture is an option. Libman states that patients do see some relief from pain. According to research published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, August 2015 issue, you might also find the process relaxing and feel healthier.



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