Arthritis & Weather Changes

Have you ever heard an older person predict rain because their joints hurt? Of course you have, sometimes as a joke but often times quite seriously. There is a good amount of truth behind those achy weather predictions. Winter may be on its way out, but we all know that the winter-to-spring transition means there is still a good amount of cold, wet days in our forecast as we wait for warmer days to arrive.

What is Arthritis Exactly?

Arthritis is a pretty large category, and covers a group of over 100 conditions that affect a person's joints. These conditions result in stiffness and pain because of damage incurred upon various joints. Anyone can be stricken with arthritis, even young children. Arthritis, while often associated with older people, is not a natural part of getting older.

Does Weather Really Affect Arthritis Pain?

Yes, weather definitely has an impact on arthritis pain. Winter weather and wet weather (April showers!) make it especially hard to manage the symptoms. What is really responsible for the increased pain is not the rain, snow or cold themselves, but rather a change in the barometric, or atmospheric, pressure.

Barometric pressure is the force exerted on any surface by the weight of the atmosphere. When the atmosphere changes due to a storm system or large weather pattern the barometric pressure drops. This drop in barometric pressure causes tissues in the body to expand which in turn can put more pressure on the nerves that control pain signals. Migraine sufferers also report major headache episodes related to changes in barometric pressure. The lower barometric pressure creates a difference in the pressure in the air outside and the air in your sinuses.

Other causes of exacerbated arthritis pain come from changes in our exercise or movement routines. We naturally want to hibernate when it is cold, which means we might spend more time on the couch than exercising. Winter weather conditions often make it a challenge to get in a daily walk or make a trip to the gym. Moving less can create stiffness in joints and muscles that in turn cause pain.

How to Manage Pain During Weather Changes

If you cannot get outdoors or to a fitness center to exercise, do as much as you safely can at home. Exercise will ease arthritis pain, so as much movement as you can manage is important. Here are a few activities you can do indoors to keep joints from becoming stiff:

  • Walking indoors (your home or a shopping mall)
  • Stretching or yoga
  • Swimming or water aerobics
  • Sweeping or vacuuming – any household chores!
  • Just move!

When you must be outdoors, dressing to stay warm and dry is critical to preventing arthritis pain.

  • Dress is loose layers. Layers trap heat near your body keeping the joints warm and more mobile.
  • Keep extremities covered: gloves, scarf and a hat
  • Waterproof shoes will keep your feet warm. Nothing is worse that cold, wet toes!
  • Stay dry if it's raining with a raincoat and umbrella

Even indoors, cold weather can make joints stiff. Keep the thermostat at 68 degrees or warmer and dress in layers to keep muscles from becoming stiff.

The Villas Senior Care Community

The Villas Senior Care Community in Sherman, Illinois provides skilled nursing care, therapy services, an assisted lifestyle community and independent living. Learn more about our five-star facility, our staff and the services we can provide by visiting our website. You can also schedule a tour at (217) 744-2299.

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