Many people move to Arizona to get out of the cold weather. Long winters and icy conditions can certainly make it harder to manage arthritis symptoms.
If you suffer from chronic joint pain and find that even Arizona winters are challenging, you’re not alone. Fortunately, you can take steps to combat the seasonal joint blues. Here are five reasons your joints hurt worse in the winter and how you can get feel great all season long.
Higher stress levels
Holiday stress may be over but the residual affect can still be wreaking havoc on your body. While stress isn’t fun for anyone, it can be particularly unwelcome for those suffering from joint pain.
Research shows that prolonged stress triggers an inflammatory response in the body. This is part of your body’s fight-or-flight response and a way of fighting off perceived threats. Unfortunately, stress-induced inflammation can exacerbate joint pain too.
Self-care routines such as journaling and meditation have calming effects on the body and mind. Research suggests that regular yoga practice can also reduce inflammation and cortisol levels.
One of the best balms for joint pain is movement and exercise. However, many people often forgo their daily walk when shorter days and cooler temperatures appear.
Although curling up in front of the fire may be tempting, maintaining a sedentary lifestyle won’t do your joints (or the rest of your body) any favors. Regular physical activity is a vital part of overall health but is also important for joint health. Low-impact exercises promote joint function, improve range of motion and reduce stiffness, pain and fatigue.
If you experience acute or lasting pain (more than a few days) from your workouts, immediately stop and talk to your physician or a pain management specialist. They can help you find exercises that work best for you.
Change in diet
It’s no surprise that a change in diet can have a direct effect on joint pain. This is because certain foods, such as those high in sugar and saturated fats, can trigger inflammation.
You can find relief from chronic joint pain in the winter by eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties, including:
- Green leafy veggies, such as kale and spinach
While it’s OK to indulge your sweet tooth now and then, monitor your diet and balance it with joint-healthy options to keep your pain in check this winter.
Changes in mood
Cooler weather and darker days can sometimes dampen spirits and leave you feeling ‘blah.’
For instance, less sunlight in the winter could signal to the body that it’s time to rest. Although some extra sleep might sound nice, too much sleep and fatigue can be linked to Seasonally Affected Depression and cause joint inflammation.
If you notice the winter blues coming on, try these tips:
- Get out of the house
- Exercise and move around
- Connect with friends or family
- Do something you normally enjoy
The jury is still out when it comes to the science on winter-related joint pain. Anecdotally, though, cold weather is the No. 1 culprit. In fact, 42 percent of participants in a poll conducted by Weather.com identified weather as a leading cause of arthritis flare-ups.
So, what is it about cold weather that exacerbates joint pain?
Though the science is conflicting, many researchers believe changes in barometric pressure could be responsible. The Arthritis Foundation says this is because air pressure can cause expansion and contraction of the tendons, muscles and bones, resulting in arthritic pain. Low temperatures may also thicken joint fluids, making the joints stiffer and movement potentially more painful.
While you can’t change the weather, you can make your joints more comfortable by keeping your body warm. As the temperature cools down, wear warm layers, use extra blankets and savor hot drinks and foods like tea and soup.
If joint pain has got you down this winter, talk a professional specializing in pain management and get back to doing the things you love.
Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of healthcare experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.
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