Bare Necessities: Combating Arthritis in Winter
If you have arthritis in your hands, winter is often the worst time of year. Your wrists and hands contain more than 25 joints combined, and the more joints an area has, the more structures arthritis can affect. When you hands are cold, muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints do not move as easily as they do when they are warm. Arthritic joints can become stiff because joint fluid isn’t moving as freely as it is supposed to. Joint fluid reacts to cold just like the oil in our vehicles: As it gets chillier, the fluid becomes thicker and does not move as easily.
Having liners in the mittens will keep your hands nice and warm in temperatures well below zero.
Winter weather often exaggerates the painful sensations for a number of reasons. But, there are many things you can do to prevent pain and discomfort from settling in your hands during the winter. Some of these are common sense, while others require more effort to prevent arthritis discomfort.
Here are three excellent tips for reducing arthritis pain throughout the cold winter months.
Select Mittens Over Gloves
First, keeping your hands warm during the winter is the best way to prevent arthritic flare-ups. If you need to go outside, always wear adequate hand protection. Begin wearing gloves when the temperature gets below 50 degrees Fahrenheit to maintain the warmth of your hands and combat joint stiffness. Mittens are often better than gloves for optimal heat maintenance. Gloves separate your fingers and can lose their effectiveness in temperatures below about 25 degrees. Having liners in the mittens will keep your hands nice and warm in temperatures well below zero.
Slather on Medicated Creams and Lotions
Your joints, muscles and ligaments in your hands and wrists are quite close to the skin. Using lotion to keep your skin moist and prevent cracking during the winter also helps prevent joint discomfort. Medicated creams may also help, because they usually have additives that help decrease pain. Aspirin cream and creams that contain anti-inflammatory agents, can be extremely effective for hand joint pain; they have minimal to no systemic effect on the body and are safe when taken with other medications, like blood thinners. For significant relief of hand pain, use medicated creams up to four times per day.
For relief and to help your blood circulate quickly in your hands, head over to the sink and soak your hands in warm water. Doing the dishes or simply running warm water over your hands and rubbing them together will loosen them up–making them more comfortable. If warm water works well for you, consider investing in a home hot-paraffin bath, or treat yourself to a warm-wax hand treatment. The wax has a small amount of oil in it that moisturizes your skin and keeps your hands supple.