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winter arthritis tips

7 Arthritis Tips for Winter Weather

by Alicia Walker, MOT, OTR/LLeave a Comment

Changes in the weather often create noticeable joint changes for individuals with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Studies show that lower temperatures, precipitation (snow, sleet, etc.) and decreased barometric pressure are correlated with increased joint pain.

Despite researchers’ conclusion that the relationship between weather and joint pain is not strictly causal (that is, weather change does not directly cause joint pain), it’s not uncommon for people with arthritis to say they can tell the weather is changing because their joint pain increases. If winter weather has your joints distressed, try these tips from a hand therapist for relief during the cold months!

  1. Start your day with heat! Use a heating pad, heated blanket, warm bath, or warm shower to increase your joints’ mobility and decrease your pain before you go about your daily activities.
  2. Avoid prolonged gripping – such as with carrying heavy holiday grocery and gift bags!
  3. Keep moving, but keep it pain-free. Consider walking inside a shopping mall, riding a stationary bike at a comfortable speed, or swimming in a warm, indoor pool for some low-impact exercise during the winter months. If exercise causes pain, your body is telling you to lessen the intensity of your activity.
  4. Dress appropriately. Layer your clothing when going outdoors. Make sure to cover all arthritis-prone joints (knees, fingers). Wear gloves or mittens!
  5. Ask for help with scraping ice off car windshields and shoveling snow. These activities are tough on joints, and can be more painful in the cold weather months.
  6. Invest in arthritic gloves. These provide compression and warmth to aching hands. Chemically activated hot packs for your hands can be helpful too. Just make sure not to expose your skin directly to hot packs.
  7. Prevent falls. Wear appropriate footwear with traction, and keep an eye out for slick surfaces that could cause you to fall and injure yourself.

If you are unable to get relief with the tips above, contact your physician or your nearest Athletico Physical Therapy clinic to set up a free assessment.

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

References:
1. Dorleijn, D., et al. (2014, April). Associations between weather conditions and clinical symptoms in patients with hip osteoarthritis: A 2-year cohort study. Pain. 155(4), 808–813.
2. McAlindon, T., et al. (2007, May). Changes in Barometric Pressure and Ambient Temperature Influence Osteoarthritis Pain. The American Journal of Medicine, 120 (5), 429 – 434.
3. Timmermans, E., et al. (2015, October). The Influence of Weather Conditions on Joint Pain in Older People with Osteoarthritis: Results from the European Project on Osteoarthritis. The Journal of Rheumatology, 42 (10), 1885-1892.

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