If you suffer from arthritis or joint pain, you might agree with Welsh poet George Herbert, who said, "Every mile is two in winter." Some people even claim that they can predict a cold snap simply by checking in with their trick knee or bum hip. But do our joints really ache more in winter?
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The research is inconclusive. Some studies show a strong relationship between the weather and arthritis flare-ups, including one from Tufts University that found an incremental increase in arthritis pain for every 10-degree drop in temperature. Some studies show that changing weather conditions — especially falling barometric pressure and lowering temperatures — can increase joint pain and swelling. Other studies have found little or no correlation between joint pain and weather.
If you're not sure whether your aches are sparked by the weather, here's a fun way to find out. Just enter your zip code on the Arthritis Foundation's weather-related joint pain predictor and see if you agree with the findings.
Regardless of what causes your painful, aching joints, here are three steps you can take can to help ease hip, knee or other joint pain.
Feed your joints a healthy diet.
You can't go wrong by loading up on these nutritious foods:
- Omega-3 fatty acids, including salmon and nuts to curb inflammation.
- Vitamin K. Pile your plate high with greens, including spinach, kale and cabbage, which have pain-soothing properties.
- Vitamin C. Juicy oranges, sweet red peppers, tomatoes and other C-rich foods can help halt cartilage loss (and resulting pain) that comes with arthritis.
Avoid pain-inducing inflammation triggers, including:
- Omega-6 fatty acids, including sunflower, corn, soybean and cottonseed oils.
- Processed grains. Opt for whole grains such as brown rice, rolled oats and 100% whole wheat bread. Early research suggests processed grains have an inflammatory effect, whereas high-fiber whole grains may help reduce inflammation.
Try supplements to see if they work for you.
While not everyone responds to supplements the same way, taking glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin may help your joints by nourishing cartilage and increasing lubrication. A large-scale study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that people with moderate to severe joint pain were provided significant relief from a daily combo of 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine and 1,200 milligrams of chondroitin.
Vitamin D can help keep your bones strong and prevent joint pain. Choose a supplement with 1,000 milligrams of D3 (the kind your body manufactures from sunlight). Always check with your doctor before adding a new supplement to your diet because some supplements can interact with prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
Move your joints.
One of the reasons cold weather is often linked to joint pain is that damp and chilly weather makes it less appealing to work out. But since exercise helps lubricate joints and prevent pain, lying on the couch all day will just lead to additional aches and stiffness.
If it's too cold outside, bring your workout inside. Just don’t overdo it. Try a low-impact, aerobic exercise such as walking or indoor cycling. Yoga and tai chi are easy on joints and can enhance your range of motion. To build joint-supporting muscles, add some weight lifting to your routine. Remember to drink plenty of water. If you do venture outside for a workout, dress warmly and rest often.
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