For many, a change in the weather can be felt in their bones and joints. For others, those same changes can trigger asthma and migraine headaches. Studies such as one from the Harvard School of Medicine examined the effects of rain, cold and other weather conditions on these symptoms and have found them to be inconclusive, and in some cases, contradictory.
Research suggest the key variable that worsens with all of these medical conditions is based on changes in barometric pressure, both the rise and fall, but with no clear answer as to why this happens. A study from Tufts University in 2007 found that every 10-degree drop in temperature paralleled with an increase in arthritis pain. The combination of low barometric pressure, low temperatures and precipitation notably increased pain in the study’s participants.
Barometric pressure is the force exerted by the atmosphere at a given point. Fluctuations in barometric pressure are usually a sign of weather conditions; a rise in pressure means weather improvement, whereas a drop in pressure can indicate inclement weather.
Short of moving to a location where the weather, and more importantly the barometric pressure, doesn’t experience significant changes, there is very little that can be done to control this cause of arthritis pain.
Please talk to your doctor about your condition. In the meantime, here are some helpful things you can try from home to relieve your pain when the weather turns cold:
- Dress warmly and layer up: Temperatures will shift during the day, and it’s best to be prepared. Gloves are essential. For those suffering from joint pain, it may feel like it’s not helping, but it most definitely is. Try layering thin gloves under a thicker pair. It may decrease your mobility, but the added layer should offer some extra protection.
- Stay hydrated: Mild dehydration can increase sensitivity to pain.
- Lose weight: A study cited in The Journal of the American Medical Association showed that as people’s activity level went up, and their weight went down, arthritis conditions improved.
- Indoor exercise: Find a local gym, community center or invest in some equipment (treadmill, elliptical trainer) and get active. Once exposed to the cold, consider taking a hot bath. Water exercise in a heated pool is another great way to get some relief.
- Vitamin D: During the winter vitamin D is one of the essentials we all need a little more of. Along with supplements, there are good sources of vitamin D in broccoli, eggs, sweet potatoes, carrots and bell peppers.
- Supplement: The Arthritis Foundation recommends using fish oil and its powerful omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce inflammation. Another supplement, glucosamine-chondroitin, is used by many to relieve join pain. Consult your doctor before adding any supplement to your diet.
- Massage and acupuncture: The muscles and tissues around the inflamed joints are part of the pain you are feeling. A deep massage or acupuncture session can help relieve some of that pain, and the processes (yes, even acupuncture) can be relaxing and stress-reducing.