Have you ever met someone who could predict a storm because they “felt it in their knees”?
In 2010, Arthritis affected 52.5 million Americans, and by 2040 the CDC predicts 78.4 million Americans will be affected. About one in four adults with arthritis—15 million people—report experiencing severe joint pain. And winter weather often makes the symptoms of arthritis worse.
Perhaps you have experienced flare-ups yourself as the weather changes. Joint pain is defined as discomfort, pain or inflammation arising from any part of a joint — including cartilage, bone, ligaments, tendons or muscles.
Scientists have a few theories as to why joint sensitivity might be related to the weather. When the barometric pressure falls (as it does when a storm system moves in) it can cause the shock-absorbing synovial fluid in the joints to expand, aggravating arthritic joints. Low temperatures could also increase the thickness of the synovial fluid, making joints stiff and more sensitive to pain.
It’s natural that during the winter we might tend to be less active. Who doesn’t love bundling up on the couch with hot cocoa when it’s cold outside? It’s important to keep exercising, however, because a prolonged lack of movement can be harmful to joint health. A lack of exercise can also contribute to weight gain, and those extra pounds can put a pounding on your joints!
So if you find yourself saying things like “Big snow’s a-comin… I can feel it in my elbow,” it might be worth taking note of these easy tips on how to keep your body working like a well-oiled machine.
Warming your body temperature at least once a day can help your joints feel lighter, looser, and less painful even in the dead of winter. Here’s a quick routine to help you heat things up:
Gently tap your body with your palms, starting with your chest, shoulders, and arms, then move down to your back and legs. Try to tap for 3-5 minutes or until your body feels warmer. You should notice your attention coming back to the present moment.
Squat in place for 1 minute to activate your core and leg muscles and loosen up your hip, ankle, and knee joints. Start slowly!
Hip rotation: standing on one leg, rotate the other leg in a circular motion 10 times outward from the hip. Switch direction and rotate inward 10 times. Then switch legs and repeat.
Extend your arms above your head with hands clasped and point your index fingers towards the sky. Slowly begin to bend over to the right, keeping your back and arms extended, and gently rotate your whole upper body in a circle. You can make the stretch easier by bending your elbows or supporting yourself with your hands on your knees. Make 3 big circles and then repeat in the opposite direction.
Finish with push-ups for upper body and core strength. Increasing the strength of your muscles can take some of the pressure off of your joints. Try push-ups either with or without your knees on the floor depending on your condition.
Incorporating superfoods and anti-inflammatory herbs into your diet is a surefire way to help improve not only joint health but overall wellness. Try eating foods like red peppers and citrus which are rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C can help your body produce collagen, which helps to cushion and strengthen your cartilage, tendons, and ligaments.
Or how about enjoying a warm bowl of oatmeal on a bitterly cold morning? Whole grains like oatmeal are linked to lower levels of inflammation. Refined grains, such as white flour, have the opposite effect. Top your oats with other foods shown to counter inflammation such as walnuts, dark cherries, pomegranates, and cinnamon.
Don’t forget to make Turmeric a staple in your spice rack this season, in part because it's rich in curcumin. One study found that curcumin extract helped to ease knee aches as well as common over the counter pain-relief medicine. Try this Ginger & Turmeric Carrot Soup if you want a delicious and healthy treat this winter.
Manage your joint pain with exercise, proper clothing, and diet this winter, and you won’t be left predicting the weather because of your knees.