5 Tips to Help Battle Arthritis I During the Winter Season

Dr. Amanda Hoffman, PT, DPT

Posted 2.20.2024

So why is it that arthritis tends to be worse during the colder months?

The actual science of this is inconclusive. Some studies have completely debunked the myth that weather can affect your joint pain, while others have shown that those who suffer from arthritis do indeed have what we call “weather sensitivity.” This means they feel worse in the cold, especially with elevated barometric pressure, when it’s about to rain or snow.

As a storm develops, barometric pressure begins to drop. Some scientists believe that this results in expansion and contraction of tissue in and around your joints (tendons, muscles, bones, and even scar tissue). If those tissues are already sensitive due to arthritis, this could irritate them further.

Additionally, the lower temperatures of winter are thought to increase the thickness of fluid inside your joints, making them stiffer and perhaps more sensitive to pain during movement.

Regardless if this phenomenon is myth or fact, it doesn’t make your pain any less real! The good news is there are things you can do to minimize pain related to arthritis as we deal with cold temperatures.

5 Tips to Help Arthritis Pain

  • Keep Moving!
    Movement gets blood flowing, which is our best and most natural form of an anti-inflammatory.
    Walking is the easiest and most practical way to get healthy movement daily, but biking and swimming are great choices too. You’ll also want to engage in some form of activity, such as Yoga, Pilates, or Tai Chi, that allows you to move your limbs, body and joints in a full range of movement. Cardiovascular activities like walking and biking won’t do that.
  • Strengthen
    You will move better when you’re strong and flexible. Pilates is great because it emphasizes both full body strength (which helps balance out your joints) and it promotes flexibility at the same time. Although it’s easy to just stretch and get more flexible, it’s important that you incorporate strength training into your routine also. Achieving good mobility AND strength is the secret to combating arthritis.
  • Stay Warm
    Dress in layers to trap heat close to your body, paying special attention to keeping your hands, feet, and joints warm. Use heating pads or warm baths to soothe achy joints and muscles.
  • Eat a Balanced Diet
    Incorporate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Get enough vitamin D, which plays a role in bone health and may help reduce arthritis symptoms.
  • Adapt Your Environment
    Make adjustments to your home and workspace to minimize strain on your joints. Use ergonomic tools, like jar openers or long-handled reachers, to reduce the need for repetitive gripping or bending. Additionally, consider using assistive devices like canes or braces to support weakened joints and improve stability. Consult your physical therapist or primary care physician before using to make sure this is appropriate.

A lot of people tend to only focus on the flexibility part, which is one of the common mistakes we see. We hope this helps you better understand why your arthritis might feel worse in winter, and what you can do about it! If you’re suffering from any kind of back or knee pain that is preventing you from being more active and mobile and therefore worsening your arthritis, give us a call or text!

Click HERE to Speak with a Doctor of Physical Therapy about How to avoid arthritis pain in the winter season!

Meet the Author

Dr. Amanda Hoffman, PT, DPT is dedicated to the wellness of each and every person who walks through the door. With her knowledge, she helps health conscious individuals live their most active and fit life without the need for pills, injections or surgery. When Dr. Hoffman isn't using her magic touch to keep people as active and healthy as they can, she's attending classes and conferences to implement the most innovative practices and technologies to address her patients' needs.

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