Living your best life with arthritis.

Survival tools for a cold and damp winter for people living with arthritis

Arthritis can affect people all year round; however, the winter and wet weather months can make it harder to manage arthritis symptoms. Climate change can increase pain to joints.

According to Robert Jamison, Professor at the Harvard Medical School and chief psychologist at the Pain Management Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Chestnut Hill, the increased pain is caused by a change in barometric pressure. Jamison explains the impact of barometric pressure on the body by comparing it to a balloon: “When a balloon is inflated, it has the maximum inside and outside pressure. High barometric pressure that pushes against the body from the outside keeps tissues from expanding. As the barometric pressure fails, tissues in the body may expand. As the tissues expand, they put more pressure on nerves that control pain signals.”

There are several ways to survive the cold. Firstly, take care of your own health by getting a flu vaccine. Health Canada states the following:

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine, also known as a flu shot. Flu vaccine is safe and effective. You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine. Most people do not have reactions to the flu vaccine. Severe reactions are rare.

Getting a flu vaccine is a simple action that can save lives by:

  • protecting you if you are exposed to the virus
  • preventing you from getting very sick
  • helping protect other people because you are less likely to spread the virus to others

Health Canada Flu PosterIt is important to get a new flu vaccine every year as the type of flu virus changes from year to year. Also, Health Canada recommends everyone 6 months and older to get the vaccine, especially for people who are at high risk of getting the virus – people with autoimmune disease, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and obesity.

Another way to survive the winter is to stay warm. Keeping your body warm can improve blood circulation and ensures all the tissues are well nourished. Below are some tips to stay warm this winter:

  • wear mittens or gloves to keep your hands warm
  • wear scarfs and hats to keep your head warm
  • wear leg warmers or warm socks to keep your feet warm
  • wear waterproof boots to keep your feet dry from the cold and wet weather
  • wear shoes with good grip to protect yourself from slipping due to a surface laced with ice, snow or autumn leafs
  • dress your steering wheel with a cover to prevent a cold steering wheel from making your hands cold
  • carry hand and feet warmer
  • wear multiple and loose layers of clothing
  • use heat to ease arthritic pain – such as hot compress packs and taking a warm shower or bath

Finally, people living with arthritis should keep a healthy diet and continue doing exercise – an integral part of any arthritis treatment plan. It is important to include a sufficient amount of calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Calcium has been shown to decrease bone loss and risk of fracture. Vitamin D helps to absorb the calcium. A lack of vitamin D is attributed to increased pain. If there is a lack of sunlight, Vitamin D supplements may be required. Exercise can strengthen muscles and reduce weight, relieving pressure from affected joints. If the weather is too cold, consider exercising indoors.