Winter is here, and it can be hard on us who have arthritis. We all know someone who has been able to say or sense how bad the winter is because their joint pain seems to be acting up. It is a common truth that the threat of winter tends to make arthritis flare up. But we have compiled a list to help you or your loved ones’ joints survive these cold Buffalo winters.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis isn’t just one disease- it’s a family of diseases or joint pains that can have many different names or characteristics. The most common type of arthritis is called osteoarthritis, which is most common in knee, hip and spine joints. It’s caused by wear and tear over time or overuse of the knee, hip and spine joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is a common autoimmune disease that can affect all joints and inflames the joint linings. Your physician or physical therapist can help best assess which kind of arthritis you may be experiencing.
Am I at risk for arthritis?
Arthritis can affect anyone, but there are a few risk factors that are immutable. The older you are, the more likely you are to have arthritis, and it is more likely to happen to women over men. Arthritis in some forms is linked to family history as well. You can also experience arthritis if you have a job in which you complete the same repetitive motion over and over again, like on a factory line or as a hairdresser. This can cause wear and tear to the joint, which can be a factor of pain or inflammation.
Is arthritis worse in the cold?
If you experience arthritis, your joints can be sensitive to the cold, so our first tip to improve your well-being in the winter is to layer up! Snow and the cold can heighten pain sensitivity, and slow down your blood pressure, so making sure that you have layers on when you’re outdoors is a great way to prevent cold wind from penetrating to your joints. Of course, we can’t always avoid the cold here in Buffalo. Another great way to stay warm is to give your joints a soak in a hot bath. This can help reduce harshness and is overall a great way to care for your body!
Which vitamins help with arthritis?
One of the most important vitamins to reducing pain sensitivity just so happens to be the vitamin we lack the most in winter- vitamin D! Vitamin D, also called the “sunshine” vitamin, is vital to well-being in many ways. But when it comes to joint pain, vitamin D can be your friend- it not only helps boost the immune system, but it also aids the body in absorbing calcium, which is needed for strong bones and joints. It’s not just a Buffalo thing either - surprisingly up to 41% of Americans actually don't get enough vitamin D, so talk to your doctor about adding more vitamin D to your diet for further benefits.
As far as nutrition goes, we’re no dieticians, but we do know that including more foods with omega-3 fatty acids, like fish, nuts, and seeds, might help reduce inflammation. Refined carbohydrates and sugars in excess can be a cause of inflammation, so trying to limit those can be beneficial as well.
Can physical therapy help with arthritis?
Arthritis can be helped with physical therapy! According to this study from the National Library of Medicine, the majority of patients with different types of arthritis found improvement through regular physical therapy.
This is great news! But you may wonder why physical therapy is effective with arthritis. Just like it’s important to bundle up in the winter to keep your joints from experiencing the cold, by making sure you move and stretch your joints, they are less likely to get injured as they’re all warmed up. Not only do these stretches and exercises help with your mobility, but exercising regularly can help with flexibility and strength as well, so it really is a win-win! It’s important however to know which stretches to do to avoid further injury or discomfort. Setting up an appointment with a physical therapist (like our awesome PT’s here at BC + PT!) can get you on the right track, as they can demonstrate and prescribe the best stretches for you and your own body.
Relief is available!
Arthritis is a common, painful, and oftentimes annoying disease that affects many of us, especially during the cold Buffalo winters. Hopefully some of these tips can help you feel better, but it’s important to know that relief is available! If you’re looking for further education and assistance with arthritis, our BC + PT physical therapists are here to help. With multiple Buffalo locations and a wide range of appointment times, we are here to help you face the winter with the best treatment plan for you. Stop waiting and start healing - contact us for an appointment.