Why Do My Joints Hurt Worse in Winter?

Why Do My Joints Hurt Worse in Winter?

You love the holidays and look forward to the new year, but you also definitely feel the stress — especially in your joints. It seems like your arthritis gets worse as the weather worsens, too.

While not everybody with arthritis experiences increased joint pain in winter, there are physical reasons why it may happen. Understanding why winter worsens stiff joints helps you avoid the main triggers and manage your pain.

Kimberly Bolling, MD, an expert clinician, specializes in diagnosing and treating arthritis, no matter the weather. At our offices in Bowie, Maryland, she helps you stay mobile and pain-free.

Do your joints feel stiffer in winter? Following are a few reasons why that might be.

You feel the pressure

Of course, winter brings the holiday season, back-to-school rushes, travel, guests, and other stresses. All of those pressures can affect your mood and your joints, too.

But in addition to emotional pressure, winter weather may bring an increase in atmospheric pressure, too. Increased barometric pressures that often occur in winter have been demonstrated to increase joint pain and stiffness in many women and men with arthritis. 

You can anticipate high-pressure days by keeping track of barometric pressure as well as temperature. Your smartphone may give you the info you need, or use a weather index for arthritis, such as this one from the Arthritis Foundation®, or this barometric pressure app. 

You’re less active

Gloomy, windy weather and stiff overcoats and layers make it harder to get out and get going. Your outdoor sports may be canceled for the winter or holiday season. Even your gym might be closed.

Gray skies aren’t very enticing, either, particularly when your house feels warm and cozy. But cutting back on exercise puts you at risk for stiff, painful joints. When you have arthritis, it’s more important than ever to keep your joints in motion.

When you move your joints, even by taking a stroll, your synovium releases a lubricating fluid that alleviates pain and stiffness. The more you move your joints (without stressing them with high-impact activities, such as jogging), the better they function.

If it’s hard to get out of the house and get moving during winter, find a winter-activity buddy. Take a stroll with family and friends. Build a snowman with your kids or grandkids. Or, use YouTube to find a home-friendly daily workout.

You’re too cold

If you’re afraid to brave the weather because your outerwear doesn’t protect you from winter winds and plummeting temperatures, it’s time to take advantage of post-holiday sales. Invest in high-quality, waterproof and warming outerwear:

If you find outerwear that’s flattering and cheery, you’re more likely to use it, too.

Ditch the holiday cookies

Even if you normally focus your diet on whole foods, such as fresh vegetables and fruits, you probably indulged in some unhealthy holiday fare. Unfortunately, foods that are high in sugar and trans fats can trigger inflammation in your body. Inflamed joints are painful, stiff joints.

Use the slow cooker or pressure cooker to make warm, nourishing soups and stews with plenty of vegetables and high-quality protein. Homemade bone broth has collagen that’s good for joints. Fill your plate with winter vegetables, such as squashes, to feel both fulfilled and healthy.

Eat foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits. Vitamin C helps your body slow down the loss of joint-protecting cartilage.

Stay hydrated

Without the sun’s rays beating down on you, you may feel tempted to cut down on hydration. But your joints need moisture no matter the weather. In fact, winter’s winds can suck moisture from your skin and may affect your joints, too.

If cold water isn’t your thing in winter, switch to warm teas. Adding vegetable-rich soups and stews to your winter diet has another benefit: The broth helps hydrate you.

Get the help you need

No matter the weather, if your arthritis flares and you can’t control it with lifestyle modifications alone, let us know. Dr. Bolling may prescribe medications or other therapies to help your joints glide more smoothly and painlessly again.

Do your joints need extra help this winter? Call us at 301-352-0090 for arthritis treatment today or request an appointment online.

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