Arthritis is the blanket term applied to joint pain or disease. Symptoms of arthritis often include “swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion.” For some people, the pain is consistent, for others it may come and go with different activities. Similarly, for some people, their arthritis never worsens over time, but for others it does. One thing many people suffering from arthritis experience is that in the winter, or wet and cold weather months, their arthritis worsens.

There is no definitive explanation for why the cold weather causes nearly 70% of people with arthritis to feel more pain during the winter. One theory is that the changes in barometric pressure cause tendons and muscles to expand and contract, causing pain. Another theory is that humidity affects pain levels much more intensely during cold months. A third theory is that when temperatures are low, joint fluids thicken, making joints stiff and painful to move. One theory, which can much more easily be avoided by individuals with arthritis, is that the cold weather often leads to less exercise, which relieves arthritis pain.

Whatever the true cause of this influx in pain caused by arthritis, there are a few things you can try to help manage your pain levels this winter:

  1. Bundle Up
    By layering your clothes (even layering gloves!) you will be able to control the temperature of your most sensitive joints, adding more when you need it, and removing them when you need to as well. This will help decrease the possible thickening of joint fluids, and also limit the stiffness of cold joints.

  2. Exercise
    Regular exercise will help keep keep your joints from becoming stiff and painful. This will also help minimize weight gain, which can lead to greater arthritis pain.

  3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
    Not only will this keep you motivated to stay active and keep you healthy, being hydrated will also make you less sensitive to pain, which is theorized to be another big reason behind increased pain during the winter.

  4. Vitamin D Supplements
    Aside from hydration, lower levels of vitamin D in the winter months can also make your pain tolerance much lower. Supplementing vitamin D during the darker months of the year will help managing pain sensitivity and also will decrease risk of other bone and joint related illnesses like osteoporosis.