It happens every year about this time. Primary care physicians and pain specialists alike start seeing a rise in patients complaining of chronic joint pain. These are patients they see every year between early November and mid-March. Unfortunately, doctors are limited in what they can do.
Prescriptions are one way to deal with chronic joint pain. And no, prescriptions do not have to be for opioids. There are non-opioid options including NSAIDs and analgesics. But beyond medication, doctors often recommend a number of self-care strategies. This post will discuss some of them.
What Causes Winter Pain
It is interesting to note that science has not definitively revealed what causes increased joint pain during the winter months. Colder temperatures could play a role. Studies have suggested a relationship between joint pain and barometric pressure. The fact is that we do not know for sure.
What we do know is that clinicians report more complaints of chronic joint pain during the winter months. There is enough anecdotal evidence to acknowledge that winter pain is a real thing. For many doctors, the question is not one of whether patients really are experiencing more pain this time of year. It is a question of how to deal with it.
Self-Care Strategies for Everyone
If you experience worsening joint pain during the winter months, follow your doctor’s advice regarding pain medication. If your doctor doesn’t mention the following self-care therapies, be sure to ask about them. You might be pleasantly surprised by how well they work.
1. Dress Warmly
Some patients report feeling more pain as a result of cold temperatures. The obvious solution here is to dress warmly. By maintaining a higher body temperature, you also maintain more flexibility in your joints. Greater flexibility should help you maintain function, thereby reducing pain.
The best way to dress warmly is to dress in layers. Multiple layers will help keep you warm and, if necessary, offer you a way to quickly cool down if you overheat. Just remove a layer and you’re all set. Also, avoid bulky clothing that limits movement and causes additional pain.
2. Lose Some Weight
Certain types of joint pain can be reduced by losing weight. For example, chronic arthritis pain in the hips and knees can be alleviated by shedding a few pounds. The simple fact is that reducing the workload on painful joints can make them feel better. As an added benefit, losing weight will improve your health overall.
3. Get Regular Exercise
Exercise may seem contrary to someone who suffers from chronic joint pain. But according to the pain doctors at Lone Star Pain Medicine in Weatherford, Texas, regular exercise is one of the best things that patients can do to better manage joint pain.
Exercise maintains mobility and strengthens muscles. Stronger muscles better support painful joints, the end result of which is less pain. On the other hand, failing to get regular exercise can decrease mobility and simultaneously increase pain. In short, move it or lose it.
4. Stay Mentally Active
Finally, you can help alleviate chronic pain by staying mentally active. Studies have shown a correlation between how people perceive pain and on how often they think about it. Staying mentally active keeps your mind off your pain, thereby alleviating it. Not staying mentally active only encourages you to focus on your pain. That can make it worse.
It is that time of year when people suffering from joint pain tend to experience more of it. Science is not exactly sure why, but there are self-care strategies and doctor-prescribed therapies that can help pain sufferers feel better.