Winter Weather and Arthritis: 4 Key Considerations

Jan 26, 2022

Individuals who suffer from arthritis must often think about aspects of their everyday lives that those with healthier joints can take for granted, including the change of seasons. Winter poses a combination of challenges for people with chronic joint pain and inflammation, from climate factors to popular seasonal activities.

The more you understand the ways winter can influence your arthritis symptoms, the more easily and effectively you can respond with smart strategies for staying comfortable and mobile through the season. Take the following four key points into consideration this winter.

1. Cold Weather Can Affect Arthritis Symptoms

Florida offers the mildest winters in the continental U.S. However, winter temperatures can occasionally get chilly even in the Sunshine State, while winter vacations and holiday trips can expose Floridians to much colder environments than they normally encounter, along with moisture that may turn to frozen precipitation.

Cold temperatures seem to make arthritis symptoms worse, even if they don’t cause the condition in the first place. Researchers theorize that as the seasonal weather changes, corresponding changes in barometric pressure may irritate nerves in worn joints and/or thicken the lubricating fluid in arthritic joints.

If you find yourself vacationing in a cold climate, take extra steps to bundle up before going outdoors. You may need to purchase and wear items you’d never need in Florida, such as mittens, ski masks, a thick coat, and insulated gloves. Dress in layers to optimize your winter clothing’s insulating properties.

2. Ice Plus Arthritis Can Equal Trouble

The less experience you have with ice, the more treacherous this substance can prove. Slips and falls can happen to practically anyone in winter weather conditions, but individuals with arthritis face elevated risks for these kinds of events as stiff, unresponsive joints affect their posture, balance, and mobility.

Studies show that even a single arthritic joint can raise the slip and fall risk by 53 percent in someone who suffers from osteoarthritis, with additional joint involvement boosting the risk higher. People with rheumatoid arthritis report nearly twice as many falls as individuals with healthy joints.

Ask your arthritis specialist to check your posture, gait, and muscle strength this winter. You may benefit from exercises that strengthen your core muscles, improve your posture, and help you react more quickly to a slip on the ice.

3. Safe, Gentle Exercise Can Help Keep Your Joints Mobile

If you don’t want your joints to stiffen up in winter weather, keep them moving. Many gentle exercises can safely work your joints and their connected muscles, improving joint lubrication and boosting blood flow. Choose low-impact exercises such as tai chi, walking, swimming in a heated pool, and riding a stationary bike.

Regular exercise offers other benefits for arthritic joints that you can then continue to enjoy once the weather warms up again. For instance, exercises that strengthen muscles allow those muscles to support your body better, taking pressure off of the joints. Exercise that helps you lose weight can also ease joint pain.

4. Seasonal Treats Can Worsen Arthritis

For countless Americans, winter means the holiday season, complete with all the treats that typically accompany this time of year. Unfortunately, indulgence in seasonal dietary traditions could leave you not only with an expanded waistline or a hangover but also with aggravated arthritis symptoms that put a crimp in your holiday fun.

Keep in mind that arthritis involves inflammation. Sugary treats and saturated fats both promote inflammation throughout the body, meaning that your holiday candies, cakes, pies, and fatty main courses can all make arthritis pain and stiffness worse. Alcohol, another common holiday indulgence, also possesses inflammatory properties.

If you want to give your joints the best possible chance of getting through the holidays in comfort, stick to an anti-inflammatory diet whenever feasible. In addition to high-fiber foods, such as oatmeal, consume plenty of fatty fish, garlic, berries, walnuts, and ginger with your meals. Reduce or skip alcohol consumption.

Sarasota Arthritis Center can serve as your home base for arthritis counseling and treatment, not just this winter but throughout all four seasons. Contact our office to schedule a consultation before setting off on your winter adventures.

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