You might assume it is all your imagination that pain from arthritis or another chronic condition feels worse in the winter. However, several research studies have proven a link between changes in the weather and changes in pain levels. Specifically, joints tend to feel more achy and stiff when the cold of winter sets in for several months.
What Causes Increased Pain in the Winter?
Experts do not entirely agree on the reasons you may feel more uncomfortable with your arthritis in the winter. One popular theory is that the body works hard to conserve heat during the coldest months. This causes it to increase blood flow to the organs located in the center of your body such as the lungs and heart. Because of this, the blood in the knee joints, legs, shoulders and arms will constrict and cause worsening pain. When parts of the body are stiffer and colder than usual, pain is the typical result.
Another popular theory for the rise in chronic pain symptoms during the weather months has to do with barometric pressure. When it changes in response to cold or damp weather, it can cause greater inflammation in people who deal with chronic pain. An increased sensitivity in the nerves and circulatory changes can also occur due to inflammation and increase pain symptoms.
Tips for Reducing Pain in Cold Weather
While you cannot control the weather, you can take several steps to increase your comfort level until the warm days of spring are here once again. These include:
- Eat a nutritious diet, get plenty of exercise and aim for at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
- Maintain a healthy body weight to reduce the pressure on your joints. If you need to lose weight, consider low-impact exercises such as swimming, yoga or aerobics. These have the added benefit of increasing bone and muscle strength.
- Keep yourself as warm as possible when temperatures are colder. Dress in layers, take a warm bath or shower, turn the heat up in your home and use several blankets when you sleep at night.
- Avoid straining your joints if possible. Ask for help if you must move something heavy or follow best practices for spreading the weight load evenly throughout your body.
- Consider purchasing a paraffin machine for bath time. This device melts wax into the water and then you dip your feet and hands into it. As your body draws in the heat, it can help to soothe your aching joints and muscles.
Capital City Neurosurgery Can Help
Sometimes pain that worsens in the winter remains chronic throughout the year and no longer responds to home remedies. If you struggle with ongoing back pain and want to consider minimally invasive surgery, contact Dr. Kelly Kiehm at Capital City Neurosurgery today.