There are many reasons why senior wellness takes a turn for the worse during the winter season, and according to many, joint pain is one of them. In addition to cold and flu season, many older Americans admit that their joint pain and arthritis is worsened once the temperature drops – but why?
Barometric pressure, cold weather and your joints
Changes in the atmosphere can affect a lot more than just the weather forecast. Since a sudden drop or change in barometric pressure puts more force on the weight of the atmosphere, it makes sense that many people experience heightened joint pain during a storm system or blizzard.
To make things a bit more clear about how this joint-weather phenomenon works, Dr. Robert Jamison, a professor at Harvard Medical School, conducted a survey on chronic pain sufferers and their levels of irritation when the weather changes. The survey was spread across the U.S. in cities like San Diego, Calif., Nashville, Tenn., and Boston, Mass.
"In a study done on changes in weather and pain, 67.9 percent of the people surveyed responded that they were sure changes in the weather had an effect on their pain. Most of the patients reported that they can feel a change in their pain before rain or cold weather occur," Jamison said, according to AccuWeather.
Jamison went on to say that it doesn't take much of a change in the atmosphere to result in fluctuations in your joints and surrounding tissues, so even a small drop in barometric pressure could have your knees aching.
If you think relocating to a drier climate may help your arthritic joint pain, think again. The human body is a versatile and fast-acting being, and can adapt to the local barometric pressure in your area no matter where you decide to relocate.
Tips for avoiding winter-related joint pain
If you have arthritis or some other form of joint pain, there's no reason that you can't play in the snow with your grandkids, just make sure that you take some simple precautions first.
- Now is not the time to give up exercise: Getting a move on is great for your joints, so keeping up your fitness plan is important for your health – and that includes your joints. Unfortunately, this is the time of year when New Year's resolutions are busted and many fail to hit the treadmill due to the dreary weather. Motion acts as a lubricant for your joints, according to Healthline, so don't slack off on those workouts. If you can't afford a gym membership and the weather outside is frightful, you can always break a sweat indoors with joint-friendly exercises like tai chi and yoga.
- Eat foods that are high in joint-friendly nutrients: These may include foods that are high in omega-3s, such as salmon and nuts, to reduce inflammation.
- Go green: Leafy greens like spinach, kale and cabbage (all of which are in season during the winter) have the pain-reducing power of vitamin K, which could help alleviate your joint pain.
- Dress warm: It's important for your joints that proper blood flow is surrounding them, so if you are headed outside to shovel snow or take a walk, be sure to bundle up with gloves, scarves, hats, cold weather boots and a proper winter coat with plenty of insulation.
- Supplements: There are some products out there that have helped some seniors improve their joint pain, including glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin. However, be sure to speak with your doctor before include these supplements into your daily diet, as they aren't for everyone.