“I think it’s going to snow, I can feel it in my bones.” Predictions like this are all too common from arthritis sufferers as the cold winter months settle upon us. Many people who suffer from arthritis believe that they can predict the weather with the increased pain that they might feel during cold, snowy and rainy weather. What would normally be an arthritic stiff joint or dull ache can easily become a shooting pain during the winter months.
Over 43 million Americans, or one in six people, deal with the pain associated with arthritis. It is a common condition with pain that can often become unbearable during the winter. In this winter-edition blog I have provided some information on the most common types of arthritis, warning signs, treatments, and how to deal with weather-induced aches and pains.
According to the National Institute on Aging, arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, limiting the activities of nearly 19 million adults. There are many kinds of arthritis, each with different symptoms and treatments. Most types of arthritis are chronic however, meaning that they can go on for a long period of time. Below are the most common types of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis in older people. OA starts when cartilage that pads bones in a joint begins to wear away. When the cartilage has worn away, your bones rub against each other. OA most often happens in the hands, neck, lower back, or the large weight-bearing joints of your body, such as knees and hips.
OA symptoms range from stiffness and mild pain that comes and goes to pain that doesn’t stop, even when you are resting or sleeping. Sometimes OA causes your joints to feel stiff after you haven’t moved them for awhile, like after riding in the car. The stiffness goes away when you move the joint. Over time, OA can make it hard to move your joints. It can cause a disability if your back, knees, or hips are affected.
Why do you get OA? Growing older is what most often puts you at risk for OA, possibly because your joints and the cartilage around them become less able to recover from stress and damage. Also, OA in the hands may run in families. Or, OA in the knees can be linked with being overweight. Injuries or overuse may cause OA in joints such as knees, hips, or hands.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, a type of illness that makes your body attack itself. RA causes pain, swelling, and stiffness that lasts for hours. RA can happen in many different joints at the same time. People with RA often feel tired or run a fever. RA is more common in women than men.
RA can damage almost any joint. It often happens in the same joint on both sides of your body. RA can also cause problems with your heart, muscles, blood vessels, nervous system, and eyes.
Gout is one of the most painful kinds of arthritis. It most often happens in the big toe, but other joints can also be affected. Swelling may cause the skin to pull tightly around the joint and make the area red or purple and very tender.
Eating foods rich in purines like liver, dried beans, peas, anchovies, or gravy can lead to a gout attack. Using alcohol, being overweight, and taking certain medications may make gout worse. In older people, some blood pressure medicines can also increase the chance of a gout attack. To decide if you have gout, your doctor might do blood tests and x-rays.
Here are some warning signs that you might have one of these types of arthritis:
- Ongoing joint pain
- Joint swelling
- Joint stiffness
- Tenderness or pain when touching a joint
- Problems using or moving a joint normally
- Warmth and redness in a joint
If any one of these symptoms lasts more than 2 weeks, see a doctor.
Properly treating any of these common forms of arthritis includes getting enough rest, doing the right exercise, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and learning the right way to use and protect your joints are keys to living with any kind of arthritis. The right shoes and a cane can help with pain in the feet, knees, and hips when walking. There are also gadgets to help you open jars and bottles or to turn the doorknobs in your house.
Some medicines may also help with pain and swelling. Acetaminophen might ease arthritis pain. Some people find NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like ibuprofen, naproxen, and ketoprofen, helpful. Some NSAIDs are sold without a prescription, while others must be prescribed by a doctor.
Along with taking the right medicine and properly resting your joints, exercise might help with arthritis symptoms. Daily exercise, such as walking or swimming, helps keep joints moving, lessens pain, and makes muscles around the joints stronger.
Three types of exercise are best if you have arthritis:
Range-of-motion exercises, like dancing, might relieve stiffness, keep you flexible, and help you keep moving your joints.
Strengthening exercises, such as weight training, will keep or add to muscle strength. Strong muscles support and protect your joints.
Aerobic or endurance exercises, like bicycle riding, make your heart and arteries healthier, help prevent weight gain, and also may lessen swelling in some joints.
Along with exercise and weight control, there are other ways to ease the pain around joints. You might find comfort by using a heating pad or a cold pack, soaking in a warm bath, or swimming in a heated pool.
Your doctor may suggest surgery when damage to your joints becomes disabling or when other treatments do not help with pain. Surgeons can repair or replace some joints with artificial (man-made) ones.
If you suffer from weather-induced arthritis there are several measures that can be taken. According to health.gmnews.com winter is a time when we not only catch colds and flu but also when chronic ailments are exacerbated by the cold, wind and damp. People with arthritis may experience their condition worsening in the winter months with even achier bones and joints. The cold and snow associated with winter can cause tendons, ligaments and muscles surrounding joints to contract and cavities in joints can also be affected by atmospheric pressure.
Although weather can affect arthritis, weather does not cause arthritis. No matter the cause, those painful joints can be the result. It is advised that arthritis sufferers wrap up affected areas very well if braving the elements and pay particular attention to extremities by wearing warm socks and gloves and try to maintain good circulation by moving around more.
It is also suggested that people with weather-induced arthritis keep warm, avoid the strains of activities of activities like shoveling snow, and to be careful on slippery surfaces to avoid injuries.