Quick Tips for Arthritis Pain in Your Hands During Winter

Quick Tips for Arthritis Pain in Your Hands During Winter

December 19, 2018

For those who deal with arthritis, winter isn’t the favorite time of the year. Cold weather brings extra challenges for arthritis sufferers, namely winter joint pain. Know how to prevent your arthritis from getting worse during the winter, and know how to address the problem if it does happen. You should also have a certain set of tools on hand to help you out.

From the way you eat to the way you dress, many factors affect the condition of your arthritis. Read below and learn about some quick fixes you can use to keep the joints in your hands comfortable throughout the cooler months.

The Problem with Cold Weather

What is it about cold weather that causes so much trouble for people with arthritis? The key could be barometric pressure. When the temperature drops, so does barometric pressure. This makes bodily tissues expand, and there’s only so much room for your muscles and tendons to grow. This creates extra pressure inside the body and leads to pain.

If you suffer from arthritis, you’re already prone to inflammation and swelling. People with arthritis also deal with chronic pain, and both of these factors can amplify the effect of the cold. The inflammation and pain associated with the cold combined with the preexisting inflammation and pain associated with arthritis to create an even more uncomfortable situation.

Cold weather also has an effect on people’s moods, which in turn affects their sensitivity and ability to deal with pain. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a mental health condition that causes people to feel depressive symptoms when the seasons change. If you find that you’re susceptible to mood changes during different times of the year, you may be more sensitive to pain and discomfort.

Winter joint pain isn’t something that you just get used to. If your joints start to feel worse or you develop new symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor. You should also contact your doctor if you have persistent swelling or redness, or if you experience debilitating pain.

How You Can Stay Comfortable and Healthy

The best way to deal with winter joint pain is to put protective measures in place to avoid the discomfort entirely. Here are a couple of ways you can stay comfortable and healthy.

  • Dress Warm — You’ve been taught to dress in layers during the winter your whole life, and it’ll pay off extra if you have arthritis. Dress in even more layers if you live in an area where the winters get particularly cold. It’s important to keep your whole body warm, not just for your comfort but also to keep blood circulating throughout the body. More blood in your hands means less joint pain.

    • Build Muscle — Building up muscle is good for your joints. Stronger muscles and bones don’t put as much pressure on your joints, so they protect your joints from further aggravation or injury. Try to bulk up during the winter to ward off arthritis in the hands.

    • Stay Fit — By this point you understand that excess pressure on your joints is bad for arthritis. Being overweight is another factor that unnecessarily stresses your joints, so get into shape and try to stay fit. Since you’re exercising to bulk up and build strength anyway, make sure you’re at a comfortable, healthy weight.

    • Don’t Overwork — Overworking your joints is one of the worst things you can do if you have arthritis, especially when it’s cold out. If you do have to work with your hands in an outdoor setting during the winter, go overboard with protection. Try gloves inside of mittens, and take regular breaks. Too much strain will make arthritis worse, no matter what time of year it is.

    • Eat Well and Stay Hydrated — You get your energy from the food you eat and the beverages you drink, so set yourself up for wintertime success with a healthy diet that’s designed for arthritis. Fish, soy, and oils contain omega-3 fatty acids that help both the brain and the body. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and consider warm water to fight the cold.

    • Use Heat Pads — What better way to deal with the cold than with heat? If you’re starting to feel the cold in your hands, use heat pads or warm compresses to keep the blood flowing. You can even stick heat pads in your gloves or mittens to relax your joints while you’re out in the cold. Heat pads will warm up your hands quickly and calm down your arthritis.

    • Take Your Medication — If you’re taking medication for your arthritis, you might have to get your regimen adjusted during the winter. Your current regimen might treat the symptoms of arthritis during the summer, but it might not prevent winter joint pain. Ask your doctor what your options are so you can stay comfortable all year long.

    Common Pain Remedies for Cold Weather Arthritis

    Sometimes you can’t avoid winter joint pain, even if you follow all the precautions. Fortunately, you have a few options when it comes to remedying the pain. Read ahead to see how you can warm up and alleviate your arthritis.

  • Moving your hands.
  • Regular movement is a crucial part of keeping your arthritis in check. Movement improves your circulation and keeps the blood moving through your hands, and simply rubbing your hands together can have an effect. You can also shake your hands out or use a stress ball to keep your hands active.

  • Wearing mittens instead of gloves.
  • You already know how important it is to dress properly when you go out in the cold, especially if you already suffer from arthritis. What you probably don’t know is that mittens can actually be a lot more effective than gloves.

    Gloves cover each finger individually, which can be helpful in the moderate cold but not so efficient when the temperature really plummets. Mittens enclose your fingers together and do a better job of trapping the heat, so your fingers get better circulation and your arthritis doesn’t flare up from the cold.

  • Using topical ointments.
  • If you typically get uncomfortably cold throughout the winter, topical ointments can be lifesaving so be sure to stock up. Topical ointments are effective for arthritis of all kinds, but they’re especially helpful for dealing with winter joint pain. If you were just working outside or you have a drafty house, cold joints might be a consistent problem.

    Simply rub the ointment on your hands until the skin is moist. Just don’t use this kind of treatment on broken skin, and don’t apply too much or too frequently. You should also talk to a doctor before using topical ointments if you take medications like blood thinners.

  • Fighting back against inflammation.
  • Inflammation is part of the reason arthritis hurts so much, and it’s more likely to happen during the winter. That’s why this is the best time of the year to shake up your diet and eat anti-inflammatory foods. Tomatoes, nuts, and leafy vegetables can help reduce inflammation and potentially reduce the pain in your hands from winter arthritis. You can also take over the counter anti-inflammatory medications, but make sure it’s okay to take them with any other medications you’re on at the same time.

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