8 Tips for Winter Joint Pain Relief
Do achy joints plague you during the coldest months? Does it seem like your knees, hips, and ankles feel sore whenever snow is falling?
It’s not your imagination! Winter weather—particularly cold—can cause slow, achy joints, making it hard to get moving. If you’re looking for winter joint pain relief, here are eight tips to help you avoid the discomfort brought on by the cold.
But first, it helps to understand why winter aches and pains happen.
WHY COLD WEATHER MAKES JOINTS ACHE
There are several reasons why winter weather may cause joints to feel achy. The cold naturally makes muscles feel more tensed up and tight. This tension may lead to less mobility and flexibility in the joints. Some studies also link changes in joints to changes in the barometric pressure, dry air, and other winter-related issues.
Although the exact science is still out as to why cold weather makes us feel achy, many people report feeling slower, stiffer, and pained in the winter. Cold is uncomfortable, and the discomfort makes us painfully aware of every twinge and ache. So, if you’re ready to combat winter joint pain, here are eight tips for winter joint pain relief to help you feel better when blustery temperatures settle in.
1. KEEP MOVING
It’s essential to keep your body active, even in the winter months. While you shouldn’t work through significant joint pain without the assistance of a medical professional, stiff or achy joints shouldn’t mean canceling your gym membership.
Often, we feel less motivated and more inclined to stay home, where it’s cozy and warm during the winter. Netflix and the couch seem to beckon, especially when a brisk walk means bundling up in layers. Resist the siren song of the TV (whenever possible) and keep your body active and moving. Low impact activity will keep your joints healthy. Try indoor swimming in a warm pool, stretching with yoga or Pilates, brisk walking, and weight training to keep your body active and fit.
2. AVOID WINTER WEIGHT GAIN
Hand-in-hand with winter often comes weight gain. Over the holidays, healthy habits tend to slide a bit, with many people packing on extra weight. Although the average gain is only around a pound, even a small amount of excess weight will start to affect your knees and other joints.
If you feel like you need to rein it in after the holidays, the new year marks a great time to start. Although the gym will be full, there are many discounts available, geared toward successful healthy New Year’s resolutions. The best rule for watching your weight is to understand “calories in versus calories out”—operate with a 500 calorie deficit per day to shed about a pound a week (a healthy, maintainable rate).
3. DRESS FOR COLD WEATHER SUCCESS
When you’re going out in the cold, wear plenty of layers and keep yourself bundled up. Cold fingers and toes tend to ache and feel sore, whether joint pain is the underlying culprit. Keep gloves or mittens in your car and work bag in case of emergencies. Stash away an extra pair of warm socks to slip on when your feet get chilly.
Similarly, wearing proper cold-weather gear changes our outlook on the winter months. We can take a lesson from research on people who live in year-round cold climates like the Arctic, Nordic countries, Canada, and Alaska: preparedness helps ease winter discomfort. Warm clothing will help you feel more comfortable going outside, getting fresh air and exercise.
4. STAY WARM INDOORS
When you’re indoors, keep yourself warm and cozy. Not only will this help your mindset, but it will help you keep moving. Repair drafts in your home and keep your heat at a comfortable temperature. Some people find that a heating pad or hot water bottle will soothe aching joints as well.
One word of caution, especially if you have diabetes or face other health concerns: avoid prolonged use of heating pads and hot water bottles. Always follow the advice of your care physician and use these heated items according to the manufacturers’ directions.
5. SOOTHE YOUR SENSES
When the weather is grey, people often feel down. These cold-weather blues cause us to focus on achy joints and notice more discomfort. One way to combat this irritation is to soothe your senses and practice winter self-care.
Some people find comfort by using joint or muscle pain creams, ointments, and salves. While these “cooling sensation” creams may or may not offer real pain relief, you may like the feeling they provide. Similarly, a warm bath and soothing scents help you relax your muscles, relieving the tension in your body.
6. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER
Hydration is always important, but it’s especially vital in the winter months. People often think of drinking more water when it’s sunny and warm, but in the winter, dry air makes you feel dehydrated, tired, and achy. Don’t neglect your water intake!
If you aren’t a fan of plain water, sipping a cup of warm tea is an excellent way to get more hydration in the winter. Bone broth and soup are also hydrating options. Aim for about eight glasses of water per day, especially if you are staying active or working out.
7. EAT A HEALTHY, BALANCED DIET
A healthy diet is essential year-round. In the winter months, a well-balanced diet will keep your body well, helping you avoid getting run down from illness and the associated aches and pains. While the science is still weighing in on the merits of certain foods directly affecting joint pain, the importance of a healthy diet still holds true.
Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains. Avoid processed foods and foods high in sugar and saturated fat. If you are sensitive to certain foods, consult with your physician about determining the best course of action. The added benefits of a healthy diet are that it will keep your weight in check and ensure you’re getting a wide array of vitamins and minerals.
8. INQUIRE ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS AND OTHER TREATMENTS
Curious about joint health supplements and treatments? Always consult with your physician on the best plan for your body. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications may be necessary, but only under the supervision of a physician. Many supplements and medications can result in unwanted side effects.
Follow through on your physician’s recommendations for any vitamins (such as vitamin D) that may get low once the weather gets cold. Your doctor will help you figure out the best course of action for winter joint pain relief.
If you’re concerned your winter joint pain is more than cold weather, we’re here to help. Injuries and joint damage are painful and should be treated right away. Request an appointment online or call 414-961-6800 to set up a consultation. We’re here to help you move pain-free, no matter the season!