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Physical Therapy Can Help Relieve Arthritis Symptoms Exacerbated by Cold Weather

With winter approaching, many of us tend to experience a change in our bodies due to colder weather. If you suffer from arthritis, you may notice an increase in the aches and pains in your joints. According to the CDC, one in four American adults suffers from arthritis, which can make it challenging to enjoy holiday activities.

During the winter months, many people enjoy participating in the outdoor activities that come with the season. Cold weather can actually worsen arthritis symptoms and cause additional issues. Since a fall in barometric pressure occurs when cold weather approaches, the joints often expand and create further pain. Other studies also credit the temperature drop for the increase in pain, especially when high humidity is involved.

 Although there is no way to directly stop the pain from arthritis, connecting with a professional can help manage your symptoms and live a more comfortable life. Physical therapy can help combat your arthritis symptoms with programs specifically tailored to your condition and lifestyle. Continue reading to learn more about how you can take control of your life and enjoy the holiday season.

Stay Warm and Keep Moving

Weather-induced arthritis can worsen your symptoms; it is important to keep your body warm and protected. Staying warm can help to reduce the possibility of inflamed joints and prevent further discomfort.

The cold weather increases the thickness of the synovial fluid which impacts shock absorption in the joints. When this occurs, the joints become stiffer and more sensitive to aches and pains. According to the Mayo Clinic, arthritis occurs when the cartilage joints “break down” over time. One of the most counterproductive things you can do is stay sedentary and let the synovial fluid continue to thicken. Finding movements that work best for your body is essential to reducing pain and discomfort.

 A physical therapist can teach you exercises specific to you and your condition that can be continued to help manage pain and increase mobility long after treatment. They will also help you understand the underlying cause of your arthritis. Medical professionals use several techniques to treat people with worsened arthritis symptoms effectively. Some of these techniques include:

  • Heat therapy
  • Stretching methods
  • Various exercises to increase mobility
  • Compression sleeves

Stretch Regularly

Another method that can be used to reduce discomfort from arthritis pain is stretching on a regular basis. People are often less likely to stay active and move when the weather is cold. Stretching regularly is a great way to keep your muscles active and engaged. It is also easy to implement in your daily routine and keep your joints active. 

Simple stretching movements can help make all the difference in the colder months when we are typically not as active. These movements are often easier on your body than cardio and can help to relieve your pain.

 Physical activity has also been proven to help decrease pain while increasing strength. Sometimes people will avoid movement when experiencing arthritis pain because they believe resting their body is the best method of treatment. This can instead create worsening symptoms and further complications.

When assessing which stretches are right for you, consult a physical therapist. They can help determine which exercises will help you get the best results with as little pain as possible. Physical therapists can help you gradually build strength and stretch without over-exerting yourself.

Consult Your Physical Therapist

Stretching and regular exercise are important parts of combating cold-weather arthritis flare-ups. Since the discomfort is in the joints, it can be tempting to wait out the aches and not properly address the main issue. For many people in the short term, it may feel better to lie down and move the joints as little as possible. However, in the long term, this may create more problems and pain. Movement is essential for the treatment process and can help fight off flare-ups.

Regular movement will also help heat the synovial fluid, which will help maintain the desired consistency. If you are not active, your arthritis discomfort will worsen, causing more issues in the future. Consulting a physical therapist will help you better understand the causes of your arthritis, and the process behind treatment. It is crucial to create a specialized treatment plan that works best for you and your lifestyle. Physical therapy focuses on safely and effectively moving the body.

According to The Arthritis Foundation, arthritis describes over a hundred conditions that affect the tissue around the joint, the joint itself, and the surrounding connective tissue. Additionally, your physical therapist can help you understand your individual condition. Various treatment options may be most effective for you and help you reach your goals. 

Create A Routine

In addition to the arthritis flare-ups that often come with an increase in cold weather, it is easy to get caught up in the busy, and sometimes hectic, holiday season. During these months it can be easy to put yourself and your health on the back-burner since your routine will be disrupted.

Maintaining your routine can be the difference between successfully managing pain or being overwhelmed by it. Many challenges come with navigating the holidays and winter months. Finding a balance that works for you is essential during cold weather flare-ups. To stay on track, seeing a physical therapist regularly can help you prioritize your health and wellness. Physical therapists will help you find a routine that fits your busy schedule and helps best manage your pain. The following activities may be recommended to you: finger curls, shoulder rolls, arms over-head raises and more. These low-impact activities can prevent unnecessary stress on joints and increase heat within the joints. Certain individuals may be able to engage in more rigorous exercises with minimal pain.

 Hot or Cold Therapy

Learning proper body mechanics and posture needed for daily activities are added benefits of physical therapy. Correct body mechanics will improve daily function. If you use a cane or walker because of your arthritis pain, a physical therapist can ensure you use the device properly. Due to cold weather flare-ups, you may additionally need braces or splints to help support joints and relieve stress.

Staying warm is important in combating arthritis symptoms in the winter months. Your physical therapist may recommend hot therapies to ease joint stiffness and aches. Staying warm helps to boost blood flow, which helps to flush out pain-producing chemicals. The receptors in the skin are then stimulated which helps to improve pain tolerance while relaxing the muscles. In other cases, cold therapy may be more effective, utilizing ice packs to numb sore areas. This also can reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.

Beware of Humidity

Cold climates are not the only seasonal change that can cause arthritis flare-ups. High amounts of humidity can cause worse pain than in dry climates. Many people do not fully take into consideration how humidity affects arthritis. An increase in humidity often equals an increase in aches and pains.

Climates that maintain warmer temperatures throughout the year may also have extreme humidity. When these more humid climates become colder, it can create a strong combination and correlation between weather and arthritis pain. When living in or visiting climates like this, it is important to be mindful of how you may be impacted by a weather change and to prepare accordingly. Staying up to date with the weather can help you forecast upcoming weather changes that may impact your arthritis. You can communicate any changes in pain with your physical therapist to create a management plan. Scheduling regular appointments can help you stay on top of these seasonal changes and make the most of the holiday season.

Check Your Benefits

Tracking your insurance benefits will ensure you make the most of your insurance plan. Your insurance plan provides annual benefits so that you can stay on top of your health and wellness.

Every year on December 31st your insurance benefits expire, and on January 1st your benefits reset. As the year comes to an end, check with your insurance provider to see what benefits you may still have left to use. If you have already used all your annual benefits, it may be time to plan how you will use them for the upcoming year. The beginning of the year provides an opportunity to focus on your well-being. If you suffer from arthritis that is amplified by the colder months, physical therapy can help alleviate this pain. Taking advantage of these benefits can get you started on a personalized pain management routine.

Why Physical Therapy Matters

There are more than a hundred different forms of arthritis that affect various joints within the body, affecting every person differently.

It is important to find the correct treatment plan for you. Help from a professional is the only way to ensure that you receive proper treatment. At FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers, our physical therapists will assess your lifestyle, routine, type of arthritis, and location to create a unique plan for you.

The colder months can create a challenging obstacle in the ongoing treatment of arthritis. This obstacle can impact many aspects of life and create challenging situations. However, there are many ways that you can manage your pain throughout the busy holiday season. While you cannot control the weather, you can control the way that you combat any arthritis flare-ups. At FYZICAL, our physical therapists will help you find the best treatment plan for you and your schedule.