If you suffer from arthritis or other joint and bone conditions, you are not alone. These conditions are also not limited to just the elderly, according to the NHS, around 10 million people in the UK suffer from a form of arthritis, which affects people of all ages.
Living with arthritis can be tricky, disrupting your lifestyle and impacting your ability to enjoy life as much as you once did. Carrying out even simple, everyday tasks can be difficult and frustrating. In addition, many people notice their discomfort increasing during the colder, winter months.
For those of us who find it harder to manage bone and joint conditions in the winter, the search for a reason why has us scratching our heads. We may not have a scientific link thus far, but there are a few theories as to why this happens.
We don’t like being cold; sometimes it can even be physically painful
The weather turning colder and with darkness as early as 4 pm in the depths of winter, all we want to do is hurry home from work and gratefully snuggle indoors. When it’s windy and rainy outside, the thought of going for a walk or a run just isn’t appealing. Being less active causes our joints to stiffen up and this exacerbates joint pain. Keeping yourself more active with light exercise can help to keep your joints moving more freely and has the added benefit of keeping your weight low, relieving further pressure on your joints.
Some of us feel the cold more than others, pulling out our coats, scarves, and gloves when winter bites. For those of us who are particularly susceptible to the cold, it can feel physically painful when the temperature drops. We have pain receptors throughout our bodies in various locations but notably, we have them in the surfaces of our joints. The cold weather can make these receptors more sensitive, increasing pain for those suffering from joint and bone conditions.
Make sure you layer up in the cold weather and try using hot compresses on affected areas to relax the muscles and ease the pain.
The body is an engine with various components
You may not have heard of synovial fluid, but its function is much like that of oil in an engine. This fluid surrounds your joints to make it easier for them to move. Without this fluid, joints can become stiff and inflamed as bones rub against each other and cause friction during movement. In colder weather, this fluid can become thicker and stiffer, meaning that the joints don’t move as easily and increasing pain and discomfort.
Cartilage wearing away, causing bones to rub against each other with no lubrication in between, also means that nerves are exposed. These nerves can react badly to changes in air pressure.
If you can find some sun during the winter months, you may find that discomfort caused by arthritis is improved. Low vitamin D levels can worsen joint and bone conditions, so getting out in the sunshine when it appears can really help, despite the low temperatures. Supplements and vitamins can complement a good diet to improve your overall health and prevent pain from worsening.
It’s worth bearing in mind that even though your joints may react badly to cold temperatures, it doesn’t mean the condition itself is deteriorating. However, if you find that your pain is worsened by cold weather, try to keep pain to a minimum by keeping yourself warmer. Thermal clothing traps heat against your skin so it’s much more effective at keeping you warm than thick clothing. Hot water bottles or a hot bath can do wonders for easing stiffness and pain, as well as keeping your home warm. These home remedies are always worth a try before reaching for painkillers.