Gurgaon, Jan 2017: Are your arthritic joints creaking and aching under the impact of the plummeting mercury? Has discomfort in your knees and shoulders increased with the peaking on the winter season? If yes, you are alone!
During the extreme cold part of every winter, more people living with arthritis report an increase in joint pain and discomfort. As the temperature hit single digits, there has been an increase in complaints of pain and difficulty in performing their daily tasks from a large number of patients, say doctors at Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon.
Joint pain can occur anytime throughout the year, but in the cold and wet months of the winters, one may find it harder to cope with. Although a change in the weather will not cause arthritis, it can worsen the symptoms.
“When the surroundings are cold, our body needs to conserve heat and therefore restricts how much blood it sends around extremities, like our hands and feet, so that it can focus on supplying vital organs like the heart and lungs, and for other important body functions like gastro-intestinal system, brain and kidneys. This means we lose less heat from blood circulating near the surface of the skin, but it also means the joints get less blood and, therefore can be painful for some,” explains Dr Vivek Logani, Chief of Joint Replacement Surgery, Paras Hospitals, Gurgaon.
Apart from the impact on blood circulation, the cold season also increases our sensitivity to pain along with increasing the inflammation.
“The inflammatory mediators accumulated due to daily activities, and also byproducts of muscle activity (mainly lactic acid) cannot be washed off very effectively because of relatively less blood supply, resulting in more stiffness, muscle aches, and increased pain sensitivity. The soft tissues around the joints are less pliable when cold, so joints feel tight and stiff, resulting in more pain,” says Dr Logani.
To add to the environmental conditions, the winter season also tends to change a number of our daily habits and activities, further augmenting the arthritic condition. Our activity levels decrease as we tend to stay huddled indoors and our water intake reduces as we tend to feel less thirsty. These changes also contribute to increased discomfort of the joints.
“Arthritic people must be very particular about their daily physical activity. However, extreme cold often forces people to forego their daily walk or exercise. One must ensure to undertake 30 minutes of daily exercise no matter how cold it is. Exercise indoors if needed, but do not give up. Reduced physical activity further compromises flexibility of the joints and weakens the muscles. Similarly, intake of water must remain adequate even in winters,” adds Dr Logani.
While not much can be done about the weather, the pain and discomfort can be managed and controlled to a large degree by adopting certain lifestyle changes and precautionary approaches.