Updated: Mar 17, 2020
Colder weather will not cause arthritis pain, but it can make the symptoms more noticeable. When we are cold our body restricts how much blood it sends around to extremities, like our hands and feet, so that it can supply vital organs, like the heart and lungs. This makes the soft tissues around the joints less pliable, so joints can feel tight, stiff and uncomfortable.
Changes in barometric pressure can cause expansion and contraction of tendons, muscles, bones and scar tissues, resulting in pain in the tissues that are affected by arthritis. Low temperatures may also increase the thickness of joint fluids, making them stiffer and perhaps more sensitive to pain during movement.
Pain is a protective mechanism to stop you from causing further damage but pain doesn’t always mean you should dive for the doona and quit exercising altogether.
Remaining active is the key. Movement will help keep your joints mobile and your muscles strong, which can reduce pain and help you stay independent.Don’t let cold weather put you off from normal physical activities and errands – wrap up warm (hat, gloves, scarf etc.) and wear appropriate footwear to prevent you from slipping if it’s wet or icy. It’s a good idea to wear layers in cold weather, so that you can peel them off as you warm up.If you’re new to exercise, don’t overdo it. Slowly build the amount you do. If you can't manage 30 minutes, break it up into 10-minute chunks. Make sure you warm up with some fast walking or gentle jogging. According research from the Mayo Clinic, daily exercise can improve mental as well as physical health.Whatever exercise you choose, remember to maintain good posture. Every activity can be done differently, so think about which positions put the least strain on your joints. For example, reaching to lift a heavy object from a high cupboard puts more strain on your shoulder than if you used a step or ladder.Pain isn’t just a physical sensation, it can have emotional effects too – making us feel upset and tired. Some people may also feel low during the winter the winter months (Seasonal Affective Disorder) , which can make pain feel worse. If you feel that you are not coping with pain or your mood, then reach out for help to your GP. Talking therapies, amongst other options, can help.A low level of Vitamin D has been associated with joint and muscular pain. Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin as a result of UVB exposure from sunlight. It is also found in meat products, fish and eggs. Vitamin D helps keep your bones healthy, muscles functioning. It may have other benefits too, but these are still being researched. As the strength of the sunlight reaching us weakens from April to October, it is advisable to take a Vitamin D supplement daily. If in doubt with regards to the dosage, speak to your GP.