Simple tips to prevent worsening arthritis in winter season

Whatever type of arthritis one is suffering from, be it rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis or any other form, most of the people report a worsening of pain and stiffness during winter season. First of all, let us explain why joint pain, swelling or stiffness worsen during winter season and cold weather.

  • The nerves and receptors which sense pain become more sensitive during cold temperatures of the winters.
  • Low temperature causes constriction of blood vessels and reduces the blood circulation to hands and feet which causes an increase in pain of arthritic joints.
  • Muscles have more spasms and stiffness in colder temperatures.
  • Vitamin D deficiency becomes more prevalent in winters. Sunlight exposure causes vitamin D to naturally form in the skin. During winters sunlight exposure decreases and vitamin D deficiency worsens.
  • Here are a few tips to take care of your joints during winters.

    1. Avoid cold exposure – Wear warm clothes and stay away from cold. It is even better to dress in layers. Always make sure to cover ankles, knees and hands using warmers, socks and gloves etc. For a particular area ir joint which is troubling more, local relief measures like hot water bottle or a heating pad can be effective.

    2. Hot shower or warm bath – A hot shower can help reduce stiffness and pain of joints and back. Swimming in a heated pool is both a great exercise and soothing for the joints.

    3. Stay Active – Cold weather makes us lazy. Isn’t it? Being active even during cold helps reducing arthritic pain. Continue your walk and exercises in winters as well. If cold is keeping you from going outside, exercise indoors.

    4. Avoid dehydration – During winters fluid intake decreases. We feel less thirsty and run a risk of getting dehydrated especially for elderly people. Making a conscious effort to stay hydrated will help you feel better.

    5. Vitamin D supplementation – Vitamin D deficiency might play a role in joint pain and stiffness. Vitamin D is also essential for maintaining good bone health and decreases risk of osteoporosis. You can get your vitamin D levels checked and see your doctor for appropriate information.

    6. Dietary modification – We often see fat intake increases during winters particularly saturated fats. Saturated fats are those fats which are solid at room temperature (ghee and butter). Increasing the intake of saturated fats not only increases the body weight and worsens joint pain particularly knees but it also increases the inflammatory response of the body and worsens arthritic pain and stiffness. On the other hand, Omega 3 fatty acids are known to be anti-inflammatory and reduce pain, stiffness and swelling. Many arthritis patients use Omega 3 fatty acid capsules also. Naturally Omega 3 fatty acids are found in chia seeds, flax seeds, nuts, dry fruits, avocado and soyabean. Non vegetarian sources of Omega 3 fatty acids are fish and fish oil.

    7. See your rheumatologist – Be regular with your medicines and if these home remedies don’t help you much do visit your treating rheumatologist for expert care.

    Dr. Suvrat Arya
    Department of Rheumatology
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