The nights are longer, the weather is colder and, if you have arthritis, you may be noticing more pain than usual. We know that living with arthritis in winter can be challenging, but there are some handy tips and tricks to making your condition more manageable in the colder months. We spoke to our friends at Arthritis Action, a charity which offers practical advice for people with arthritis, to find out more.
Beating winter joint pain
You may have heard -or felt - that winter makes the symptoms of arthritis more painful, but is it really true? We spoke to Dr Wendy Holden, consultant rheumatologist and medical adviser for Arthritis Action, for more information.
“Many people with arthritis and other painful conditions believe that their pain gets worse with cold weather but others feel that damp or warm weather may be worse. Some people who have had surgery or injuries to their joints believe that an increase in pain in their joints means that rain is likely.
To investigate this, researchers from the University of Manchester collected information from over 13,000 people with chronic pain over 15 months in a study called “Cloudy with a chance of Pain”. In this study, patients submitted information about their levels of pain via a smartphone app, and researchers linked this information to local weather patterns. They tracked over 5 million pain reports and found that on days with higher humidity, lower pressure and stronger winds, pain was more likely. In other words, many people were right that the weather affected their pain, but it was damp and changeable weather rather than the cold.
No one knows why changes in the weather can affect joint pain, but it may be that joints can sense changes in the external air pressure through nerve endings, and that other nerve endings in the joint can then also trigger pain signals. If cold weather seems to make your joint pain worse, try keeping your core warmer with layers or thermal clothes and wear thicker socks or thermal gloves.”
Staying active in winter
Keeping active is really important at any time of year, but we know that during the winter months it’s really easy to go into hibernation mode. David Vaux, Arthritis Action Therapies Manager & Exercise Lead has some tips on how to stay active - even if you choose to stay indoors.
“It is important to keep your joints mobile whilst using your muscles, to retain health and strength. Movement is great for helping with pain during the winter months, flushing your joints through and improving stiffness.
Take a look at Arthritis Action’s chair-based exercises page, which shows ways to keep your joints active without having to leave the house. These exercises will also help to improve the range of motion and joint function for people with arthritis.”
You don’t have to go outside to keep fit anymore. There are loads of apps, websites and video tutorials which can teach you anything from yoga to dance and you can do it all from the comfort of your home! Have you always wanted to learn to dance? Check out these video tutorials with Len Goodman and become a whizz at the Salsa, Waltz and/or Samba today!
Lessen joint pain when exercising in the cold
We know it’s hard to motivate yourself to get outside when it’s cold, dark and miserable. It is really important, however, to keep up your exercise regime as it can improve your arthritis symptoms. David Vaux has some tips on how to do this safely.
“Getting fresh air, even if we are finding ourselves inside for long periods of time, is good for our minds and our bodies. Be mindful of getting too cold, however. Try slowly raising your internal temperature with some gentle exercise, and try to stay moving and mobile while you’re outdoors.”
Cold, dark weather and mental health
Long nights and cold weather can take its toll on your mental health, but there are ways to beat the winter blues. Heather Baumohl-Johnson, Clinical Hypnotherapist & Arthritis Action Director of Member Services & Operations, tells us more.
“It is important to focus on your mental wellbeing during these cold winter months. Anxiety and stress may develop when you feel a lack of autonomy and perhaps feel everything is out of your control. Try coming up with your own ‘Wellbeing Plan’, to bring a sense of balance to your life.
Write down 3 to 10 words that represent how you are currently feeling – be honest! Take a Look at those words, these reflect your emotions and can show how you are currently feeling. We each have autonomy in how we feel and how we can change negative feelings to positive ones.
Set out a few key ideas of how to overcome the feelings you have written down, and build your own plan of action. For example, you might have written down the word ‘lonely’. Take control and look through your contact list or address book, and arrange a call, Zoom or FaceTime for some company.”
It’s been a strange year and we’re all having to adapt and adjust. This winter may not be quite what you’re used to, but there are still ways to make it manageable and even fun. We hope you find these tips helpful and that you’re feeling motivated to tackle the winter blues. Do you have any tips for winter when you have arthritis? Let us know by commenting on Facebook!