As winter weather settles in across the U.S., people with arthritis may face challenges. One study found that 67% of arthritic patients claimed that changes in the weather—such as impending rain or cold—increased their discomfort. The reason isn’t clear, but one possibility is the change in barometric pressure that accompanies weather fronts. When air pressure drops, tissues expand. If those tissues are chronically inflamed with arthritis, pain may flare up. Arthritis pain can be a never-ending burden for some. Fortunately, there are many ways to find relief.
What is osteoarthritis?
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA), in which the cartilage that cushions joints breaks down, sometimes causing bones to rub together, leading to excruciating pain.
Precise causes of OA are difficult to determine, and many factors can increase a person’s risk, including joint injury, aging, obesity, and genetics. Researchers aren’t sure why, but women experience more severe and widespread OA pain than men, possibly because of hormonal and nervous system differences. Testosterone may be protective—when administered to female rats, it made them less sensitive to pain.
Treatments for osteoarthritis
Conventional OA treatments rely heavily on medications such as nonsteroidal anti-
inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioids, and corticosteroids, but all carry the risk of adverse effects. If the condition progresses, surgery—such as repair, replacement, or fusion of joints—may be needed. However, some safe and inexpensive lifestyle changes can offer significant relief:
- Get low-impact exercise: Swimming, brisk walking, stationary cycling, and light weight training can all help. Adding gentle movement to your life several times a day is a powerful countermeasure to pain.
- Shed pounds: Excess weight puts extra stress on joints. Even a modest weight loss—say, 5% of your body weight—may help reduce pain.
- Take turmeric: I recommend taking this anti-inflammatory spice in a supplement that also has piperine, a black pepper extract that improves absorption. Or add it liberally to foods (like smoothies) along with black pepper.
- Eat oily fish: Salmon and sardines are excellent choices, or try another daily source of omega-3 fatty acids such as walnuts or freshly ground flaxseed. A high-quality fish or algae oil supplement is another option.
- Fill up on produce: Aim to have five to nine daily servings of organically grown vegetables and fruit.
It's worth nothing that other varieties of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis, act differently on the body and require targeted therapies, so consult your physician for a diagnosis and treatment plan.
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