Do you find that your achy joints seem to get worse during the winter? It’s not your imagination! Many people with joint pain report experiencing stiffer, more painful joints when temperatures drop.
Although the exact science is still out as to why cold temperatures affect people’s joints, experts theorize it could be due to changes in barometric pressure, or the pressure in the air. Additionally, when exposed to cold, muscles stiffen, joint fluid thickens, and blood flow drops. All of these factors can contribute to joint pain, especially in people affected by arthritis.
Regardless of what causes your painful, aching joints in the winter, the fact is that it hurts! Fortunately, there are steps you can take to support your winter joint health and ease the discomfort associated with cold weather. Here are our top tips for keeping your joints healthy in the winter.
1. Keep moving
While cozying up on the couch with Netflix seems to beckon during cold winter months, it’s essential to stay active this time of year, as exercise helps lubricate your joints to prevent pain.
Stick to low-impact indoor exercise that doesn’t put undue strain on your joints. Think indoor swimming, treadmill walking, rebounding, stationary biking, yoga, Pilates, or using an elliptical. Lifting light weights can also be beneficial, as this form of exercise builds strength in joint-supporting muscles.
Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. That might sound like a lot, but when you think about it, that breaks down to a doable 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week.
2. Eat healthy
During the winter and holiday season, healthy eating tends to slide a bit. While indulging in goodies might taste good in the moment, doing so can ultimately lead to weight gain and increased inflammation, both of which can increase joint pain.
To eat a healthy diet that supports your winter joint health, load up on whole foods, including fruits, veggies, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fish. These foods are filled with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals that curb inflammation and support joint health.
On the flip side, avoid foods that are known to cause inflammation, including refined carbohydrates, refined sugar, and refined vegetable oils, such as soybean oil, safflower oil, and canola oil.
3. Dress for the weather
Because lower temperatures can cause increased joint pain in many people, it’s important to dress warmly when you venture outside. To protect your skin and joints from outdoor cold exposure, wear layers, warm pants, gloves, scarves, and boots.
When you’re indoors, stay nice and cozy by bundling up and keeping your thermostat at a comfortable temperature.
4. Add supplements
In addition to eating a healthy diet, consider adding an anti-inflammatory supplement, such as JointFuel360, to your routine. JointFuel360 is an oral supplement that combines research-backed, anti-inflammatory ingredients, including turmeric root, black pepper extract, Boswellia serrata extract, resveratrol, collagen (type II), and hyaluronic acid. These ingredients work together synergistically to improve joint comfort, mobility, and flexibility during the winter months (or any time of year!).
5. Stay hydrated
People often think of drinking more water when it’s sunny and warm, but not so much when it’s cold and dreary. Cold weather, however, doesn’t protect you from dehydration. Hydration is important year-round, both in terms of overall health and joint health.
Aim to drink about eight 8 ounce glasses of water a day, or more if you’re active. If you’re not a fan of plain water, squeeze some lemon or lime in it or infuse it with fruit. Soups, broths, and teas are also hydrating options that are perfect for colder weather.
6. Avoid winter weight gain
Many people pack on some weight during the winter months. While you might not think adding a few pounds to your frame is a big deal, it is when it comes to your joint health. Experts estimate that one pound of bodyweight equals three pounds of pressure on your joints. That means that if you gain 10 pounds, you’re adding a whopping 30 pounds of extra pressure to your joints.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t enjoy any indulgences over the holidays or allow yourself to veg out on the couch, but try to make healthy choices your default. These include exercising, eating well, getting enough sleep, and managing your stress. Your joints (and overall health) will thank you!
7. Apply heat in moderation
If your joints are acting up or you feel they need some warmth, try applying heat. Heat increases blood flow to the affected area, which can help relax muscles, lubricate joints, and relieve joint pain and stiffness.
Heat is especially beneficial for people with joint pain not caused by inflammation, such as osteoarthritis. You’ll know a joint is inflamed if it’s red, swollen, or warm to the touch. Heat treatments can be helpful for those with rheumatoid arthritis, but not when you’re having a flare-up.
You can apply heat by wrapping a heating pad or hot water bottle in a layer of cloth and holding it on the affected area for 10-20 minutes. You can also opt for soaking in a warm bath.
8. Stretch it out
People tend to notice that their joints and muscles get stiffer in cold weather. To combat this, make stretching a part of your daily routine—ideally 5-10 minutes in the morning and evening. Stretching helps keep your joints mobile and lubricated and, consequently, less painful.
You can find several stretching routines on YouTube to follow along with or you can do whatever stretches come naturally.
The bottom line
While experiencing an increase in joint pain during the winter can be discouraging and frustrating, it’s helpful to keep in mind that there’s a (warmer) light at the end of the tunnel. Do your best to support your winter joint health while remembering that this increase in discomfort is temporary and simply a result of the weather. Spring and summer are on their way!