With the colder seasons fast approaching, joint pain, stiffness, and discomfort will unfortunately be on the rise. Joint problems and cold weather seem to go hand in hand.
To help you keep your joints healthy and functioning properly through the cooler months, we’ve put together a list of easy ways to minimize joint problems in cold weather this fall.
But first, let’s dive into the reasons why colder weather can worsen your joint issues.
What is Joint Pain, Exactly?
Joint troubles can be an everyday discomfort or even pain experienced by one in six Canadians, especially as we age. We often think about our knee joints, but since we have joints all over our bodies, pain can be experienced in a variety of places. Knee, shoulder, and hip are pretty common complaints.
There is not one type or cause of joint pain. It can involve discomfort, pain, or inflammation in any part of a joint (bone, tendon, ligaments, cartilage, or muscle)and can make walking, climbing up and down stairs, for instance, very challenging.
Not surprisingly, joint pain can greatly affect a person’s quality of life and ability to perform basic, day-to-day tasks.
The two most common types of joint pain/arthritis are known as:
- Osteoarthritis, which affects the cartilage between bones after wear and tear or overuse
- Rheumatoid arthritis, which involves the immune system attacking joint tissues
Why do I have joint pain?
Joint pain is not a guaranteed misfortune that comes with aging, though more than 50% of people over 65 years of age will experience achy joints.
The severity and location of joint issues can be dependent on previous and current physical activity, injuries, genetics, and overuse.
While joint pain is more likely to happen in older adults, you can also have arthritic pain at a younger age if you sustained an injury (e.g., car accident) that causes chronic pain, if you were/are an athlete, or because of your genes.
Why do my joint problems worsen in cold weather?
Cold weather brings relief for many who find summer temperatures uncomfortable, but the opposite is true when it comes to your joints.
It has been a longstanding belief that joint sufferers experience greater pain during the cold and snowy weather. Research and testimonials have confirmed this is true! It turns out that cold environment does not cause joint pain or arthritis, but can increase the painful symptoms.
For those who love the nitty gritty details, here is the science behind why you may feel achier when colder weather approaches. The pressure within the Earth’s atmosphere will change depending on the weather. This is known as atmospheric or barometric pressure. As pressure drops with colder weather, our joints may start to swell, which creates discomfort.
It’s science, sure, but that doesn’t mean this is something anyone wants to put up with for every chilly season that comes along.
How can we combat the extra discomfort and pain cold weather brings to our joints?
First, bundle, bundle, bundle! When you are out in the cold, it is smart to wear loose, layered clothing to trap your body’s heat and keep your joints warm.
Pay attention to what joints are causing you the most discomfort and focus on keeping those joints out of the cold. For example, if you experience arthritis in the hands, be sure to wear thick gloves or mittens to reduce any aches and stiffness. You might not feel the cold right away, but your joints will react to any changes in your environment.
Continuing the same theme, feel free to use warmth to your, and your joints’, benefit! Heat therapy is a common trick to keep your joints loose and mobile. These treatments can include heating pads placed inside mittens or and warm showers/baths following cold exposure.
Eat a healthy diet
Did you know that delicious as they may be, sugary foods can cause achy joints to ache even more? As mentioned on our other blog posts, inflammatory diets can lead to a cascade of negative health effects.
Foods that contribute to high cholesterol such as saturated fats, excess sugar, and processed foods are also linked to obesity, which will take its own toll on your already struggling joints.
With that in mind, your joints will thank you if you try to eat an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole foods (stay away from processed foods!) to result in less overall inflammation in the body.
Stress management is key, though it’s not always easy. The fact is, being stressed can trigger constant tension and inflammation in the body which can worsen joint issues.
At times, arthritic symptoms can cause its own vicious stress cycle of fatigue, pain, and low-quality sleep. This chronic stress can lead to lower desire and motivation to exercise and eat a healthy diet, which will further contribute to joint pain.
Bottom line: Listen to your body if you are working it too hard.
Tip: If you notice that stress is a part of your life, consider a relaxing type of exercise to help bring your body to ease such as yoga or meditation.
It’s true: lack of physical activity can cause joints to become stiff and sore.
The Arthritis Foundation recommends that is you are struggling with joint pain you should engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week. That divides out to about 20 minutes a day…that seems doable, right?
Low-impact aerobic exercise can improve joint strength and flexibility, boost energy, and help to ease pain of your joints and surrounding areas.
Amanda Nelson, MD, discussed this topic in an interview and simply stated, “First things first: you just have to start”. Meaning, if you are not used to partaking in any athletic activities, perhaps you can work your way up to a 20-minute session. Still, there is no shame in doing a shorter one! It’s all about just beginning and getting into a routine.
Get out there and make those joints happy any way you can. And don’t forget to warm up and stretch those muscles and joints before you go out in the cold weather!
So what kind of exercise should you be doing?
It is a great idea to target the three facets of fitness: strength, endurance, and flexibility.
- Low-impact aerobics (such as walking, biking, and swimming)
- Muscle strengthening (such as weight training and resistance bands)
- Balance and flexibility (such as yoga and tai chi)
Consider a joint health supplement
For added support to keep your joints healthy as we head into the cooler fall months, Kondor Pharma created a natural health product called Genuwell for this exact purpose.
This gluten-free, vegetarian supplement is geared toward addressing inflammation, the primary cause of most joint issues and pain.
As always, be sure to talk to your doctor before trying any new natural health product.