Why do symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis worsen in winter?

If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you know how excruciating joint pain and stiffness can be, and you also likely know that pain and stiffness can increase in cold weather, especially if you live in parts of the country that experience long, cold winters, but why is that? Why do rheumatoid arthritis symptoms worsen in the winter, and what can you do to relieve the pain while you wait for warm weather to return?

Chronic nature of rheumatoid arthritis

According to Health Grades, rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease in which inflammation in the inner lining of the joints causes swelling, pain, and stiffness. However, rheumatoid arthritis can affect other parts of the body, such as the skin, eyes, blood vessels, and even organs such as the lungs or heart.
There is no definitive cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but some treatments and medications can slow the progression of the disease by helping to reduce joint pain and stiffness. However, no matter how well your disease is under control, cold weather can make your rheumatoid arthritis symptoms worse. You may even feel like you can predict the weather based on how your joints feel. There have not been many studies on the relationship between weather and pain in rheumatoid arthritis, and some small-scale studies seem to support it, while others have not had promising results so far.

Possible reasons for more joint pain when the weather is cold

It doesn’t help whether studies have shown that cold weather worsens the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, or whether you find that joint pain and stiffness increase as the temperature drops and the weather gets colder. Even if there is no scientific explanation for its cause, you can still talk to your doctor about ways to control this change in symptoms.
Some doctors believe that the pain and stiffness of the joints may worsen due to the decrease in air pressure and temperature. Rheumatoid pain and stiffness are caused by inflammation in the lining of your joints. A drop in air pressure and temperature can cause the tissues to expand and as a result put more pressure on the joint than before, which worsens the pain and stiffness of the joints, but if the pressure drop of the pressure measuring device and the temperature drop causes the body tissues to expand, why doesn’t everyone feel more pain when the weather gets cold? Because the pressure drop of the pressure measuring device and the decrease in temperature do not have the same effect on everyone, for example, some people with migraines start or intensify their pain with a change in the weather and the pressure drop of the pressure measuring device, but in others this does not affect their condition.
Another possible reason is how our body reacts when we first walk in the cold. Until we return to a warmer environment, we don’t feel that our body stiffens and stays stiff or not. The same thing happens if you are sitting in the cold at home or at work. A cold can also slow blood circulation and cause muscle spasms.
The experience of pain in the cold may also be due to an emotional reaction to lower temperatures and benefiting from fewer hours of sunlight. Also, the winter season can increase depression and the feeling of isolation, which in turn may intensify the perception of pain and discomfort from the symptoms of rheumatism.

Protecting joints in winter

Here are some steps you can take to reduce the pain or risk of worsening arthritis symptoms in cold weather:

Wear warm and protective clothing

Dressing in layers to keep warm is the best choice. Use gloves to protect your hands, but if you must wear gloves, use compression gloves and protect your feet from the cold with warm socks and boots.

Use a heat pack

Small heat packs in your pocket can keep your hands warm outdoors.
Use heating pads on your painful joints. Be sure to have a cloth between the pad and your skin to prevent burns. If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor before using the heat option on your feet or toes.

Exercise as much as you can

Exercise can help loosen joints and reduce pain. If you live in a snowy and frozen area where walking outside is a dangerous option, sign up for a gym or choose indoor activities like dancing or tai chi. Keep in mind that walking around the mall is also considered exercise.

Control your mood

If you find that your mood is affected during the winter, it can cause more pain, so try using light for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), meditation or yoga to keep your mind calm and reduce stress.
You don’t have to fear the winter months for rheumatism. If you find that cold weather makes your symptoms worse, talk to your doctor about treatments or other lifestyle tips that can ease your cold season pain.

Translator: Goddess Zarei

December 4, 2019 22:00

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