Keep your Arthritis Warm In Winter
This may sound more like something for the crock-pot than for your health! But the value of keeping arthritic joints warm is paramount. It is also a very misunderstood reason why people with arthritis suffer so much more than they need to (especially in winter). In fact in some cases when they need not suffer at all!
The muscles around the joints have a huge effect on the movement of the joints and the amount of pain that you can feel in and around the joints. When these muscles get cold they will tighten and put more pressure on the joint. This can add to the degenerative changes in the joint as well as refer pain into the joint too.
This referred pain is often what is mistaken as ‘arthritic pain’. Often when people are told that their pain is due to arthritis it is due to the tension and referred pain that the associated muscles are causing. A good example of this comes from the Rectus Femoris muscle (on the front of the thigh). This muscle can send pain deep into the knee joint mimicking the crippling pain of arthritis. Furthermore this muscle will compress the knee cap causing significant wear and damage to the knee cap.
If the muscles are the source of the pain then you should notice some reduction in pain and increased flexibility after soaking in a hot pool or similar. Typically this relief can be very temporary but at least it is a good indicator of what is responsible for your pain.
It is useful to know that the most effective heat is a moist heat, i.e. bath, shower, hot pool, mud/mineral heat pack. Dry heat, such as wheat bags and hotties are less effective but obviously much better than getting cold. Keeping your body covered is critical so that the muscles are kept warm. High neck clothes and scarves are a great choice for winter to help this.
Hot rubs that contain menthol etc are useful too, but please note that using these should not be performed in conjunction with wheat bags and other external heating methods as the result can be nasty burns!
Lastly, if a joint is significantly inflamed then heat may aggravate and may not be appropriate. In these cases be cautious.