Cold Induced Arthritis
In our practice we see a major spike in joint specific complaints when the weather gets nasty. It would be great if we could all winter in the Bahamas, but for many, dealing with cold damp weather is part of the reality of living here in Maryland.
The most common scenario that triggers a flare up is a sudden change in atmospheric pressure that results in decreased temperatures and increased moisture. Patients who have maintained active and relatively pain free over the warmer months start showing up on the schedule with complaints of knee swelling and stiffness, painful thumbs and stiff necks.
There are not many studies that show a direct link to cold and damp causing or progressing Osteoarthritis. Degeneration of joint surfaces and the resulting inflammation of the joints occur in all climates all over the world, not just in cold climates. However, muscle stiffness and decreased blood flow are measurable changes that occur when we are exposed to cold and damp. Any change to atmospheric pressure in the joint has to be rebalanced to equalize. This is made far more difficult when there is change to joint pressure from altered tension of the surrounding muscles and a fluctuation of blood flow to the joint surface and capsule.
Over the winter we can minimize the effects of cold, damp Arthritis flare-ups by staying ahead of the inflammation. By taking simple measures to stay warm, we can prevent the fluctuation in blood flow.
Wear Extra Clothing
Take Warm Baths
Use a Sauna
Drink Hot Tea (with or without a splash of spirits)!
Warm Up the Car
Massage can be very helpful to improve blood flow, especially when combined with the use of a hot pack and warming topical creams and oils. Getting treatment with Acupuncture/ Dry Needling can also improve circulation and release restricted connective tissue to better support proper joint mechanics. When possible stay active, even if that means needing to exercise indoors. Warm water classes can be great to reduce the stress on the effected joints while at the same time allowing the benefits of movement. Keeping your weight down will also reduce the stress on the joints and in doing so minimizing sugar consumption will help with inflammation as well.
Don't let the colder months get the best of you! Fight back by staying ahead of the pain and inflammation. Start an exercise routine now, before you are flared up. Dress warm, get Massage, Manual Therapy and Acupuncture/ Dry Needling. It’s much cheaper than a second home in the Bahamas!
Douglas Bertram, L.Ac., MTCM, Owner