When most people think about joint pain being affected by the weather, a cold and rainy day is the first thing that springs to mind. But for many, the symptoms of arthritis are even worse in warm and humid conditions. If you or a loved one are among the countless individuals who find that heat brings with it inflammation and stiffness, there are a number of things you can do to beat the heat.
Weather and Chronic Pain
The relationship between the weather and chronic pain isn’t well understood, but has been documented for more than two millennia. While many people have been understandably skeptical of a connection between pain and the weather, study after study has proven what many patients of rheumatoid arthritis have always known – weather hurts.
One popular theory suggests that the fluid lubricating our joints is restricted in warmer conditions. Regardless of how it happens, we know that humidity and heat can lead to pain and inflammation. We also know that anti-inflammatory medications, like ibuprofen, become less effective under warmer conditions.
Types of Arthritis
There are more than 100 different types of arthritis. Each type varies considerably in severity, as well as which joints are affected. The most common forms are Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Gout, Psoriatic Arthritis, and Lupus.
While the causes vary widely, nearly all forms of arthritis produce joint pain and have an inflammatory effect that can be worsened with weather. About one-third of people with arthritis say it limits their activities — a staggering total of more than 24 million adults in the United States alone.
Tips for Handling the Heat with Arthritis
Fortunately, there are a number of simple tips you can use to help manage arthritis pain through the summer. The simplest strategy is to try and stay indoors, especially with the help of a fan or air conditioner to help bring down the heat. Additionally, many people find a dehumidifier makes the heat more tolerable.
As with nearly all health conditions, diet and exercise play an important role. Water exercises aren’t just good for cooling off; they’re also a form of low-impact exercise that’s ideal for people with joint pain.
If you have to spend time outside, dress appropriately. Natural fabrics and loose-fitting designs are preferable because they’re more breathable. It also helps to take frequent breaks, and to make use of cooling pads or ice packs applied directly to the joints. And because anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce blood flow to the kidneys, it’s particularly important to watch your hydration during the summer months. This can also help prevent heat stroke and muscle cramps.
Caring For Arthritis in Warm Weather
Does warm weather help rheumatoid arthritis? While more cases of arthritis seem sensitive to cold weather than to warm weather, the heat isn’t going to do you any favors. Summer weather can be physically draining no matter who you are. If you throw chronic pain into the mix, it can be downright miserable. But with a smart approach to handling the heat, there’s no reason that arthritis has to get between you and your enjoyment of a little sunshine.
Do you suffer from a form of arthritis? How do you manage your condition during the summer months? Let us know some of your tips for dealing with arthritis in warmer weather in the comments below.