People who live with arthritis and chronic pain may be familiar with the aches and pains that come with cold weather. If you’ve ever searched the internet for pain remedies, you know there’s no shortage of advice and opinions about how to deal with this problem. But which at-home remedies actually work?
It’s important to state that there’s no definitive answer to why or how cold weather causes joint pain. The theory is the body may be able to perceive changes in atmospheric pressure, which often accompany weather extremes like cold temperatures, rain/snow storms and thunderstorms. Cold weather also causes narrowing of peripheral blood vessels, which lessens blood supply to the skin, joints and ligaments. This can cause stiffness and soreness. People with Raynaud’s disease have blood vessels that are more sensitive to cold. If your pain is sudden-onset, accompanied by numbness and aggravated by cold, talk to your healthcare provider.
As for over-the-counter pain relievers, acetaminophen (Tylenol) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be effective in easing joint pain. Of course there are risks and benefits to each of these medications, and they’re not all the same. If you’re regularly taking over-the-counter pain relievers, be sure to mention this to your healthcare provider. You should be aware of maximum recommended dosages and any interactions with conditions you have or medications you’re taking.
Muscle rubs and heat/cold therapy products are popular pain relief methods, which is evident if you’ve visited a drug store lately. Many of these products are designed to generate blood flow in a specific part of the body by either causing heat, like most topical rubs, or applying heat to the area, as in hand warmers or heating pads. Generally, better blood flow to joints, muscles and ligaments relieves stiffness, aches and pains. However, some people report better results with cold therapy. If heat or cold therapy has worked for you in the past, it’s likely to work again. Experiment with one or both therapies, or use what has worked for you and your specific pain before.
Another way to improve blood flow is with regular exercise. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise, can help with inflammation that causes aches and pains. Good nutrition, regular exercise and avoiding cigarettes and alcohol can go a long way in lessening joint pain.
If you’re struggling with joint pain that’s preventing you from living your normal life, especially in the wintertime, and home remedies aren’t working, it may be time to see your primary care physician or rheumatologist. If conservative treatments don’t help your joint pain, make an appointment at the Riverview Health Interventional Pain Center to explore medical intervention.
To make an appointment with Dr. Ward at Riverview Interventional Pain Center, call 317.770.5861.