Why Does Winter Worsen Arthritis Symptoms?

Rheumatoid arthritis pain can feel worse during the winter months

(RxWiki News) If you feel your arthritis symptoms getting worse when winter comes, you are not alone. But what causes this issue?

Colder weather may worsen arthritis pain for a variety of reasons. We discuss those reasons and what you can do about them below.

Why does cold weather cause more pain or stiffness?

Although there has been some research on this question, none of the studies have provided a conclusive answer. Still, many individuals report feeling worse arthritis symptoms during the winter, and a few theories have been suggested:

  • Barometric pressure – Barometric pressure drops before storms and in colder weather, and this drop in pressure may allow muscles and tissues near the joint to expand, causing pain.
  • Body stiffening due to cold exposure – When you walk outside in very cold weather, your muscles and joints may stiffen as a reaction to the shock. This stiffening may last until you get back inside, and it could inflame existing trouble spots for your arthritis.
  • Seasonal depression – Depression tends to spike during the winter, and research suggests that your perception of pain may be increased when you are feeling depressed.

None of these theories are proven, but they may help to explain the common feeling of increased arthritis pain during cold weather.

How can I reduce arthritis pain during the winter?

Here are a few ways you can reduce arthritis pain and avoid increased symptoms during the winter:

  • Wear extra layers to stay warmer when you are outside.
  • Avoid being outside for prolonged periods.
  • Use a heater and wear warm clothes while inside.
  • Remain active during the cold months. Movement can reduce joint stiffness and pain.
  • Stretch regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy diet to reduce joint inflammation.
  • Maintain a healthy weight to prevent increased pressure on your bones and joints.
  • Use a heating pad on areas that are experiencing pain.
  • Keep heat packs in your pockets to keep your hands warm while you are outside.
  • Speak with your doctor, try meditation, use a UV lamp, and consider medication to treat depression.

Before making any of the above lifestyle changes, speak with your health care provider.

Should I call my doctor?

It's always a good idea to call your doctor if you are concerned about your arthritis symptoms, but it's especially important to contact your health care provider if you notice new symptoms, trouble using the affected joint, inability to put pressure on the affected area, persistent redness or swelling, or disabling pain.

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Review Date: 
December 4, 2020