Not all joint pain is created equal. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease characterized by inflammation caused by the immune system attacking specific tissues leading to potentially excruciating joint pain in many joints in the body.
For sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis (frequently called RA), symptoms often flare up in cold, damp winter weather, especially in the Pacific Northwest. Along with having less time outside due to the shorter daylight hours, the colder weather often convinces people to do fewer outdoor activities and pushes any exercise indoors. Also, many experience depressive symptoms in the wintertime, which can lead to less desire to take care of yourself and your symptoms; depression also is frequently associated with a decreased tolerance to pain. This can increase the joint pain of RA regardless of any actual changes in the joints themselves.
Fortunately, there are several things that can help to counteract this seasonal increase in pain and symptoms. Read through the following tips and focus on those that sound like they may fit into a healthy lifestyle for you.
- Exercise – Even mild to moderate amounts of exercise can keep joints feel less painful. Some RA sufferers experience relief with weight-bearing exercise, such as walking. This will help to decrease stiffness and also helps to lubricate the joints, which improves mobility and decreases pain.
- Warm bath/heating pad – Especially on the coldest of winter days, counteract the chill by taking a warm bath or applying a heating pad to the painful joints. Not all RA responds positively to heat, but it can be a good experiment, as many cases do see improvement.
- Relax with meditation or acupuncture – Decreasing stress has been shown time and again to reduce the pain associated with RA. Taking some quiet time in the winter months can help to relieve holiday and family stress that often occurs for many people November through March. Many also find stress relief with acupuncture, which can be helpful to reduce joint pain and inflammation.
- Get plenty of sleep – Rest leads to healthier joints, as sleep allows for reduction of inflammation and reduces sensitivity to pain. Keeping a normal sleep schedule despite changes in daylight savings hours, family visits, and holiday travel can help to manage RA pain.
- Schedule an appointment with your naturopathic physician – Our naturopathic physicians are well-trained to evaluate and treat RA and joint pain and look forward to discussing how to best manage your symptoms this winter. Be sure to continue taking your medications and supplements as ordered by your physician to achieve the highest efficacy.
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