Why is my arthritis worse in the winter?
Read on to find out more about arthritis, cold weather and how to help yourself.
Why is my arthritis worse in the winter and in the cold?
This is a question we hear a lot. Winter can be a challenging time of year for people with
arthritis. Colder temperatures and shorter days seem to make the stiffness, aches, and pain
That lovely holiday to Portugal in the summer when, for a week, you were completely pain
free, seems a long time ago.
Fingers, toes, knees, and ankles seem to be the most problematic. And people go to
Podiatrists in search of help and answers.
We have put this little post together to share some information about arthritis and why it can
be worse in the winter.
Read to the end to get a few “tips for arthritis” that may help you out too!
What happens when it gets colder?
You might notice your arthritis flares up more in winter for a few reasons. One reason is that
the humidity levels drop, which can make your joints stiffer. If you live in a dry climate, this
isn’t as big of an issue. But let’s face it, we’re quite used to rain in the UK in the autumn and
winter… and spring and summer too for that matter.
The change in temperature and humidity impact joint mobility and also our response and
sensitivity to pain. The other factor is that we tend to stay indoors more in the winter and we
are generally less active and mobile. This means that our joints don’t get used as much and
can become even stiffer.
Many people are trying to be a little more environmentally and financially conscious, which
means we are keeping the heating on less and sitting on the sofa with an extra blanket
instead. Great for the planet, not so good for our joints.
Why does the cold make my arthritis worse?
There are a few explanations for this….
Arthritis is caused by inflammation in the joints. When it is cold, our blood vessels become
narrower – this is called vasoconstriction. Less blood in the joint leads to less oxygen and
fewer nutrients since they are carried by the blood. It can also lead to a build-up of fluid and
The cold weather also impacts muscle function, with some research suggesting this can
have an impact on joint function and pain mechanisms of the body too.
Lastly, when the weather is colder, our hands and feet tend to get dryer and dry skin can
lead to stiffness and immobility too.
What can I do to try and help?
1. Our first tip is to drink lots of water. This helps with many components of our health
and fitness and can help with mobility and pain/nerve function.
2. Keeping your joints warm is always a good idea, especially when it’s below freezing
outside. So, grab that cozy pair of mittens for that cold morning walk, or if you’re
sitting at your desk all day, slip on some gloves. While you’re at it, put on an extra
pair of socks too! This may sound like overkill, but it’s worth it in the end when your
joints aren’t in pain.
Heat packs and hot water bottles may be a good option too, but avoid extreme heat and rapidly warming your feet or hands when they have been cold.
3. Whilst it can be expensive and bad for the environment to have the heating on all
day, keeping one or two rooms in the house warm (particularly if you are working
from home) will help a lot. A small electric heater can warm up a single room
efficiently and the central heating can be turned off. We give similar advice to
chilblain sufferers too.
4. Move more! If you are sitting down for work or during the day, get up every 30
minutes and have a little walk, do some stretching or mobility exercises and take your
joints through their normal ranges of motion.
You can find loads of great mobility exercises or dynamic warm up exercises on
YouTube so have a look. Whilst you are there, subscribe to the PodiPedia Channel
we will be posting loads of new content soon!
5. Take a hot shower or bath before bed. The heat makes your muscles more flexible
and helps you get a good night’s sleep (but remember point 1, because hot baths
and showers dehydrate you).
6. Moisturise your skin with a good moisturiser every day. This will help keep it more
supple and stretchy.
7. Keep a pain diary and speak with your health care professionals about your pains.
They may be able to offer more personal advice or medication to help your
If your pain is getting worse, speak with your GP or a Podiatrist (if it is foot or lower limb
pain). You can find a Podiatrist on our directory.
Keep on your feet and keep warm!
The PodiPedia Team.