As fall and winter return, so can the aches and pains we associate with cold weather. Today’s post will discuss why many of us will experience seasonal hand pain – and what we can do about it.
Cold Weather and Arthritis
Colder weather can lead to seasonal hand pain for many arthritis patients. Experts aren’t quite sure why fall and winter changes have such a significant impact.
Colder weather can lead to seasonal hand pain for many arthritis patients. Experts aren’t quite sure why fall and winter changes have such a significant impact. One theory is that decreases in barometric pressure associated with cold fronts causes muscles and tendons to expand. This can create stress within the already-crowded joint. Lower temperatures are also known to stiffen joints due to the thickening of synovial fluid.
The Arthritis Foundation notes that freezing temps can slow our blood circulation, heighten the sensitivity to pain sensitivity and in some cases cause muscle spasms. Patients with inflammatory arthritis may also be affected by the natural autoimmune responses that follow cold and flu symptoms.
What to Do About Season Hand Pain
The good news is that there are proven ways to ease this pain, beginning with becoming more active. Exercise helps ease stiffness, improves range of motion and helps with flexibility. Building bone strength and muscle also ease the pressure on joints, and can aid in preventing injury.
Exercise is also key to mood improvement, which can play an overlooked role in pain management. Gloomy fall and winter days might make you want to curl up on the couch, but more sedentary people are also subject to more seasonal hand pain. Eat well, be social and try to approach life with a positive attitude in order to ward off seasonal changes in mood.
Focus on activities that are more joint friendly, like walking, yoga, biking, water aerobics and dancing. Just be sure to stretch and warm up before you begin exercising. In between structured exercise routines, take the stairs instead of the elevator when possible. Make regular chores like vacuuming healthier and more fun by dancing as you go. Exercise during the time you’d normally be watching TV.
Protect your hands, head and feet on colder days to offset stiffness. Beyond the standard hats, scarves, gloves and warm socks, add waterproof boots and loosely layered clothing that will trap body heat.
When Lifestyle Changes Aren’t Enough
Fall and winter can be a challenging time for those with arthritis. Take a moment to stop and assess your personal situation, noting how your joints are responding as temperatures begin to drop.
If you’ve made the appropriate lifestyle changes and are still experiencing chronic pain in your hands, wrists, or elbows, you may have a serious, treatable condition. Contact Dr. Donnelly's office today to accurately diagnose your condition and discuss treatment therapies that may help you navigate the winter months with less seasonal hand pain.
About Dr. Brandon P. Donnelly, MD
Dr. Brandon P. Donnelly is a board certified hand surgeon with Pontchartrain Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. Dr. Donnelly completed his hand and microsurgery fellowship at the prestigious Philadelphia Hand to Shoulder Center. Dr. Donnelly treats all ages of patients in the greater New Orleans area for hand, wrist, and elbow conditions.
This site is not intended to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual. Through this website and links to other websites, Brandon P. Donnelly, MD provides general information for educational purposes only. The content provided in this website and links, is not a substitute for medical care or treatment. You should not use this information in place of a consultation or the advice of your healthcare provider. Brandon P. Donnelly, MD is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis or any other information, services or product you obtain through this site.