We all have that relative or family friend who lets us know that the weather is about to change based on their arthritis symptoms. Is it just another old wives' tale or are arthritic flare ups a predictor of impending cold weather? Research studies done on this subject show that cold weather may indeed be an arthritis patient's kryptonite. When the temperatures drop, those with this condition tend to experience increased symptoms of pain and stiffness.
What is behind this relationship between temperature change and arthritis? According to an article published in Minnesota's Star Tribune, not all scientists agree that there is a direct correlation between cold weather and arthritis, but some believe that air pressure that plays a role in increased flare ups, not the temperature itself. The article covers a 2007 study conducted by researchers at Tuft University, which showed that for every ten degree drop in temperature there was a corresponding increase in the participant's pain level. Likewise, increases in barometric pressure also triggered increased pain. Harvard Medical School Professor Robert Jamison explains in the piece that it is not the temperature itself that is the culprit, but the change in barometric pressure that causes the increased pain. He notes that a drop in barometric pressure causes the tissues in the body to expand and this expansion puts extra pressure on the nerves that control pain signals.
Tips for Easing the Pain
Now that we have established the relationship between weather and arthritis, what can be done to help ease the pain? Keeping warm and dry can help alleviate or minimize some of the aches and pains of arthritis. We have provided some tips for doing so below:
- Dress in layers
- Protect your hands from the weather by wearing mittens or gloves
- Wear a hat or beanie on your head
- Protect your neck with a scarf
- Wear socks to provide your feet with extra warmth and in wet weather wear waterproof boots
In addition to keeping warm and dry, physicians encourage exercise as a good way to ease the pain and stiffness associated with arthritis. It is critical for those with arthritis to exercise year-round, but it may be even more important to do so in the fall and winter months to help with the cold weather flare ups. Popular exercises for those suffering with arthritis include: stretching, weight lifting, gentle yoga, walking and swimming.
Minimizing the cold weather flare ups can be challenging, but we hope we have provided you with some tips that will help you to be more comfortable this fall and winter.
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