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Cold Weather Stiffens Joints

Experts says dressing warmly and exercising regularly can help

SATURDAY, Nov. 8, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- If you think the cold weather brings lots of aches and pains with it, you're probably not imagining things.

Many osteoarthritis sufferers report an increase in stiffness and pain when Jack Frost pays a visit.

Research has been done on the phenomenon, but it has yielded few definitive conclusions. However, people report more aches and pains as the thermometer drops. Barometric pressure also seems to take its toll on arthritic joints, and there's anecdotal evidence that women suffer more in the winter months.

The good news is this discomfort is probably temporary and won't affect the long-term outlook for your health, says Britain's Arthritis Research Council.

Experts suggest dressing warmly and layering your clothes so you can adapt to temperature changes. And keep in mind these tips for short-term relief, which can work regardless of the weather.

  • Try a pain reliever with acetaminophen such as Tylenol, suggests the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculosketal and Skin Diseases.
  • Maintain a healthy diet.
  • Sleep eight to 10 hours every night.
  • Stick to an exercise routine. Be sure to include range-of-motion exercises (such as dance) to increase flexibility; strengthening exercises (such as weight training) to increase muscle strength; and aerobic or endurance exercises (try bicycle riding) to control weight and improve overall function. Aerobic exercise may also reduce inflammation of the joints.
  • Ask your doctor or physical therapist about using heat or cold to stem arthritis pain. Depending on what kind of arthritis you have, moist heat (try a bath or shower) or dry heat (try a heating pad) can reduce pain. A cold pack or even a bag of frozen vegetables when applied to the joint for about 15 minutes may also relieve pain.

More information

Find out more about stiff joints in the winter from the Arthritis Foundation.

SOURCES: Arthritis Research Council, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculosketal and Skin Diseases; Arthritis Foundation
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