7 Tips To Keep Joints Happy In The Heat
Have you noticed that your arthritis symptoms can get worse during the summer? When you’re hot, the amount of synovial fluid (the thick fluid between your joints which helps them move smoothly and cushions them so they don’t rub together) can fluctuate, leading to increased pain. Changes to barometric pressure - the pressure in the earth's atmosphere - can also contribute to arthritis pain, so you may find that your symptoms get worse during humid weather and rain.
You deserve to enjoy the summer months without pain holding you back, so we’ve compiled this list of 7 tips to keep your joints happy in the heat.
1. Keep Moving
The heat can make you feel tired and sweaty when moving around, but Dr Wendy Holden, Honorary Consultant Rheumatologist and Arthritis Action’s Medical Advisor, says keeping active during the summer is one of her top tips to help keep your joints happy.
“It can be easy to stay inactive over the summer, but you should try to move more wherever you can,” says Dr Wendy. “Even just walking up and down stairs a few more times every day and setting low goals that you can easily achieve can do a world of good. If you are already active, try to move a little more - ideally 30 minutes of moderate activity, which raises your heartbeat every day. Gardening can be a good activity during the summer months, or anything which gets you out and enjoying the nice weather.”
Moving around increases synovial fluid in your joints, which can decrease pain. It also improves circulation, which sends much needed nutrients and oxygen to the joints. The hot weather can make you more sedentary, but it’s really important to keep moving all year round to improve your overall well being. Why not take a stroll through the park (don’t forget the sunscreen) or swim in an outdoor lido this summer?
2. Stay Hydrated
When you sweat, your body loses liquid which needs to be replenished to avoid dehydration.The synovial fluid and cartilage cell tissues need water to ensure they’re working correctly, so if you’re not consuming enough water you may feel that your pain levels increase. Dehydration can also lead to a number of health problems, such as headaches, dizziness, chills, fainting, hallucinations, seizure and (in extreme cases) heat stroke.
When out and about, make sure to carry a bottle of water with you. It can be tempting to drink more alcohol on a sunny day, but some drinks like alcohol and caffeine can dehydrate you so make sure you’re also drinking water even when consuming other liquids. You can also up your water intake from refreshing fruit and vegetables such as cucumbers, watermelon, oranges, tomatoes and strawberries.
3. Dress Comfortably
It’s always important to feel comfortable in your clothes, but especially in summer you don’t want tight or ill-fitting material rubbing or tightening around your painful joints. Loose, comfy clothes can make it easier to move around and give your joints the room they need to not feel constricted. Black and dark clothing traps heat, whilst lighter colours reflect heat and can thus make you feel less hot, so avoid tight dark clothes and try out some loose fitting lighter colours.
4. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is important all year round because it can help take pressure off your joints and reduce pain. Dr Wendy names it as one of her two top tips to keeping your joints happy in the heat this summer.
“To keep to a healthy weight, try to avoid thinking of yourself as being on a diet, because most diets that are too restrictive are destined to fail in the long run,” says Dr Wendy. “Instead, think more about healthy eating. For example, eat more fruit, vegetables and grains to fill you up, and try to eat less sugar. Colourful fruit and veg can be a treat meal on a summery day, and can also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Feeling bloated is never fun, but it can be especially uncomfortable when you’re also hot. Try eating water-rich fruits, tasty salads and light, nutrient-rich meals to make sure you feel healthy and energised in the heat.
5. Hot and Cold Treatment
Holding a cold water bottle or ice pack to your face or other part of your body doesn’t just cool you down during the summer months - it can also help reduce arthritis symptoms.
“Some people may find that an ice pack wrapped in a tea-towel can help reduce the inflammation surrounding an arthritic joint, and can help cool you down during the summer heat,” says Dr Wendy. “However, some people find a heat pack or hot water bottle to be more beneficial in reducing inflammation even in the heat. Some may even find that both are effective. There is no single life hack that works for everyone. Experiment with the different options and see what works best for you.”
6. Get a Good Night's Sleep
It can be really hard to sleep when it’s humid, and a poor night's sleep can ruin your day.
“Many people with arthritis struggle to get to sleep during the summer, both because of the heat and the added pain from arthritis,” says Dr Wendy. “Sometimes the pain of lying on an affected joint or turning over at night can disturb slumber and result in poor sleep quality, while worries about pain and being sleepless can make the problem even worse. If you lie sleepless in bed for more than about 20 minutes, evidence shows that you will go to sleep again quicker if you get up and sit quietly for a while until you feel sleepy again and then go back to bed. Try to avoid stimulants during the day such as caffeine, and don’t make the mistake of drinking alcohol just to make you sleepy, as alcohol affects sleep quality and will make you feel worse in the long run. Try to avoid heavy meals near bedtime, and try to have a bedtime winding-down routine to let your body and mind know that it’s time to rest.”
Get that Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, muscles and immune system, and you get most of it from the ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Around one in five adults in the UK are not getting enough Vitamin D, which makes sense when you consider our rainy and cloudy climate. A hot summer day is a great chance to up your Vitamin D intake, but make sure you don’t over do it! Some medications for arthritis can make your skin more sensitive to light, so check your package leaflet and ask your doctor if you have any concerns.
People with lighter skin may need just ten minutes of direct exposure to the sun rays, whilst those with darker skin may need around 25 minutes. It can be tempting to spend all day sunbathing, but too much sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer and give you nasty sunburn. It’s a good idea to spend the hottest part of the day (around 11am-3pm) in the shade, wear at least SPF15 sunscreen, and cover up with loose fitting, cool clothing and a hat to protect your face.
What are your tips for keeping your joints happy and healthy in the warmer months? Let us know on Facebook.