Josyann Abisaab: Arthritis, Joint Pain and Winter

Winter weather can affect each person differently. For people with either lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, the cold weather which winter brings can be a real challenge.

Many people suffering from arthritis feel especially stiff upon waking in the morning. It can be difficult to get going with your day when it takes longer to loosen your joints and alleviate the aches and pains these illnesses cause.

Although there is very little scientific evidence that cold weather directly causes arthritis or alters its course, there is no doubt that the cold makes arthritis feel worse.

When air pressure drops, as it does on cold winter days, this can affect the balloon-like tissue surrounding the joints. Lower air pressure means the balloon can expand a little, which places additional pressure on already sensitive joints. People can actually feel the pressure around them changing in their joints. This is the reason many people say they can predict coming bad weather in their joints.

One doctor from the National Institutes of Health suggests:

“Do what you can to keep warm. Bundle up from head to toe in several layers, preheat the car before getting into it and make sure your home or apartment is kept warm.”

Additional suggestions are: Sleep under an electric blanket, warm clothing in the dryer before dressing and drink warm or hot drinks, such as coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

It can also be helpful to keep the joints moving. Before going out in the cold, warm up your joints, and a regular exercise program can also be extremely helpful to relieve the extra joint pain of winter.

Dr. Josyann Abisaab is an emergency room physician at the Presbyterian Hospital of New York, wishing you a warm, pain-free winter.