CareNow® - December 29, 2022

You may have noticed that your joints tend to stiffen up as the cold weather creeps in. But is there any truth to the idea that arthritis is worse in the winter? Many people claim they can predict cold weather and rainfall based solely on how much joint pain they’re experiencing.

A recent study revealed that nearly 68% of those surveyed were positive that changes in the weather had an impact on their pain levels. So what could cause this to happen?

It turns out, there’s a reason why you may be experiencing an increase in joint pain before it begins to rain or get cold. Here’s a look at the connection between arthritis and the weather — and why there may be a link between winter and worsened joint pain.

What are the types of arthritis?

There are many different types of arthritis that can lead to swelling, stiffness, and pain in the joints, including:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Gout
  • Lupus
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis

Who is at risk for arthritis?

Arthritis can impact anyone, although your risk does increase with age. In fact, 23% of adults in the United States have some form of arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are nearly 58.5 million adults in the country who suffer from some form of arthritis. Surprisingly, an estimated 300,000 children under the age of 16 also have some form of arthritis or rheumatic disease.

Those who are obese and anyone who’s injured a joint is at a heightened risk of developing arthritis. To see if you are suffering from arthritis, you can get examined at an urgent care clinic like CareNow®.

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Why do joints hurt more in winter?

Barometric pressure is believed to be the cause of increased pain for those with arthritis before and during cold weather months. This change in atmospheric pressure occurs along with the change in weather. For instance, as a storm approaches, the barometric pressure will drop.

A great way to think of this is to picture a balloon. When the balloon is fully inflated, the inside and outside pressure are at their fullest. High barometric pressure keeps the tissues from expanding by pushing against the body from the outside.

However, as that pressure decreases, tissues in the body can expand, putting pressure on nerves that control pain signals. Because there isn’t much expansion needed to impact the joints, even those who reside in drier climates may experience more pain during changes in weather.

How to prevent joint pain in winter

If you’ve experienced an increase in joint pain during cold months, you’re likely curious about how you can prevent it from happening again this winter. One of the most important things you can do is dress warmly and focus on covering the heads, hands, and feet thoroughly.

Despite the cold weather, it’s a good idea to move as much as possible. Being inactive will cause your joints to stiffen up, while exercise helps loosen them and increases strength and flexibility.

Can diet impact arthritis flare-ups?

There are many foods that can trigger inflammation. For instance, foods high in sugar and saturated fats are notorious for being inflammatory. These foods can trigger flare-ups of arthritis and lead to unnecessary pain.

If you’re dealing with arthritis, it’s a good idea to avoid the following foods:

  • Inflammatory fats: Saturated fats, trans fats, and omega-6 fatty acids are known for increasing inflammation in the body. Stay away from foods like meat, butter, and cheese, as well as inflammatory oils.
  • Sugar: Research has shown that people who drink regular soda (instead of diet soda) are more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis. Excess sugar consumption also puts you at a greater risk of developing heart disease and can lead to obesity and other chronic diseases. It’s best to eliminate sugar as much as possible.
  • Nightshades: This name applies to a group of vegetables that contain the compound solanine. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has stated that removing bell peppers, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, and chili peppers from your diet can help reduce symptoms in most people.
  • Foods high in purine: Purine is a substance in food that causes the body to convert it to uric acid. When you eat foods high in this substance, it can cause acid to build up in the bloodstream. High-purine foods include beer and other alcohol, organ meat, red meat, cured meats, and some seafood.

Sticking to a Mediterranean diet is the best way to eat to help improve your symptoms. The Mediterranean diet focuses on:

  • olive oil
  • lean meats, eggs, and fish
  • nuts and seeds
  • whole grains, fruits, and vegetables

One of the most important parts about this diet is that it limits alcohol, red meat, and sugar, which are known to cause inflammation.

What to do if you’re struggling with joint pain

There’s no hard and fast treatment for arthritis. It’s typically dependent on the type of arthritis you have. Many medical providers will recommend medication to help control pain and inflammation.

When at home, consider using heating pads and cold packs on the affected joints to help alleviate paint. Stretching regularly also helps improve your flexibility and strengthen muscles that support the joints. Swimming is one of the best exercises you can do if you’re arthritic as it’s low impact on your joints.

If you’re suffering from arthritis and want to seek treatment or even just a proper diagnosis, consider visiting your local CareNow®. We’ve got more than 175 locations throughout the United States, and we’re ready to serve you both after hours and on the weekends.

Each of our clinics is fully staffed with qualified medical providers who can properly diagnose and treat your arthritis so you can go about your life as pain-free as possible. Be sure to take advantage of our Web Check-In® feature so you can wait from anywhere.

Don’t forget that we’ve been awarded the distinction of Accredited Urgent Care Center from our industry’s association, Urgent Care Association (UCA), highlighting the excellence of our care.

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