Almost every one of us knows somebody who suffers from Arthritis, and of the most common statements you’ll have heard those friends or family members make is that their symptoms worsen in the winter. Indeed many people who have the condition go to warmer climates for a holiday at this time of year to lessen the symptoms.
In this article I will take a look at what arthritis is and why winter can make it so painful.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
It’s an autoimmune disease which causes stiffness and pain because of inflammation in the joints. It’s not to be confused with the much more common Osteoarthritis caused by regular wear and tear on the body which is why it troubles people as they get older. Osteoarthritis can cause deformities in the hands as can be evidenced on television in a well-known celebrity baker who is advanced in years.
Doctors usually treat Rheumatoid Arthritis with anti-inflammatories and pain relief medicine however a growing number of people are looking for a natural approach. If you remember a few months back when I circulated ‘The doctor who gave up drugs’ this is an approach I support as a registered naturopath.
Why are the symptoms of Arthritis harder to manage in winter?
According to Robert Jamieson, Professor at the Harvard Medical School and chief psychologist at the Pain Management Centre at Brigham Hospital, it may be a change in barometric pressure which causes the worsening of symptoms rather than cold, rain or snow. He carried out a survey focused on patients with chronic pain which reported “67.9% 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.”
His reasoning on it being barometric pressure cause was from a test conducted on a balloon. “When a balloon is inflated, it has the maximum inside and outside pressure. High barometric pressure that pushes against the body from the outside keeps tissues from expanding.” His conclusion was that the falling barometric pressure falls led to tissues expanding in the body and that in turn puts more pressure on nerves that control pain signals. He concluded that “it doesn’t take much expansion or contraction of tissue to affect a pain trigger.”
What if you can’t avoid bad weather?
Living in London makes bad weather pretty unavoidable and not all Arthritis sufferers have the luxury of being retired and able to spend chunks of the winter in sunnier regions. So I would suggest a number of lifestyle changes which could help to lessen your symptoms including:
- Research naturopathy – we really are what we eat and there’s a connection to many foods and their ability to lessen inflammation. Turmeric contains Curcumin which is very well known for the aforementioned inflammation reduction properties, however if you feel you cannot eat enough curries to contain a beneficial amount there are supplements available in health food shops. Celery is also well known to reduce inflammation and a great way to eat as much as possible is through soup, I have included a recipe from the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/celerysoup_85016
- If you are overweight try to lose a few pounds – the heavier you are, the more pressure you put on joints which in turn causes more pain
- Try acupuncture – there is increasing evidence that acupuncture can lessen symptoms of arthritic pain. My website has much more information on acupuncture so that would be a good starting point in finding further information.
- Exercise more – I said above that losing weight would help and regular exercise will aid this. However the more you flex joints the more you’ll keep them flexible so try things that aren’t weight bearing (as running would cause more damage) like swimming or yoga. It’s purely coincidental that my other article this month is on the benefits of yoga to chronic back pain sufferers.
In summary, there is a lot you can do to lessen symptoms. However if the information above seems daunting them feel free to make an appointment with me to discuss manageable changes in your life which can help to lessen the pain – just call 020 8815 0979 or click here to request an appointment.