Not everyone is affected by changes in the weather, but many women and men with chronic arthritis know immediately when the air is turning chilly and damp. If you're one of those people who can "feel it in your bones," you want to take extra care to stay warm and prevent joint stiffness and pain.

Here are five ways to avoid arthritis pain this winter:

1. Don't forget your mittens

Wear mittens instead of gloves. Mittens are preferred because your fingers can help keep each other warm. In addition, layer cold-weather clothing to keep your hands, feet and body warm and comfortable. Look for underwear and outerwear that wicks moisture away from your skin. Wear waterproof jackets, hats or hoods, and boots in cold rain or snow. Be sure your footwear is sturdy, so you stay stable when the ground is icy.

2. Don't overeat

It's tempting to turn to hearty, comforting food in winter, just watch your portion sizes. We're less active in winter, and it doesn't take much in the way of extra calories to pack on extra pounds. Excess weight puts extra stress on your joints.

3. Don't stop moving

Sitting around, simply trying to stay warm can cause your joints to swell and stiffen up. Stay strong and flexible with non-jarring workouts such as yoga, tai chi, low-impact aerobics, and swimming. Walk whenever and wherever you can, and gently stretch your muscles throughout the day.

4. Don't perform strenuous activities

Shoveling snow and other types of heavy lifting can hurt your joints. It's best to get someone else to do the hard work, but if you must take care of snow on your own, take it easy. Rather than lift a heavy shovel, gently sweep or push snow to the side of the path before it builds up.

5. Don't stay indoors

Try to get out as much as you can in the daytime during colder months. In addition to exercise, your body needs a little sun each day to produce vitamin D, which helps keep your bones strong. If you think you're deficient in vitamin D, speak with your doctor about supplements. If your doctor has already recommended supplements, be sure to take them as prescribed.


Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Arthritis Treatment Center, Frederick, MD
National Institutes of Health. "News in Health: When the Weather Gets Cold"

Rush University. "Discover Rush: Give Sore Joints Some Extra Wintertime Attention"

University of South Carolina School of Medicine. "Healthwise: Weather-Related Arthritis Symptoms: Medical Fact or Fiction?"