If you’re suffering the painful effects of arthritis, you’ll know how much the condition downgrades your quality of life, especially in the winter season.

According to ABC Health, Arthritis is the leading cause of chronic pain in Australia, with around 52,000 people aged between 15 and 64 suffering so severely it keeps them out of the workplace. With the recent cold snap in Queensland, arthritis patients are feeling more than just a winter chill.

Deakin University pain expert, Dr Michael Vagg explains enhanced arthritic symptoms are caused by a drop in the barometric pressure, which usually occurs in cooler, damper weather. This drop then allows tissues and joints to swell and puts pressure on nerves that control pain signals.

Symptoms of arthritis:

  • Pain, swelling, or stiffness in one or more joints
  • Joints that are red or warm to the touch
  • Joint tenderness or stiffness
  • Difficulty moving a joint or doing daily activities
  • Joint Symptoms that last three days or more
  • Several episodes of joint symptoms within a month

Arthritis isn’t a diagnosis – it’s a general term that covers more than 100 diseases and related conditions. Knowing what type of arthritis, you’re experiencing is the first step to getting the right treatment and pain management plan.

Some types of arthritis require prompt action as they can cause permanent joint damage, while infrequent or mild joint pains may not require an urgent doctor visit, but it’s still a good idea to discuss your joint health with your GP.

To help you get through the winter months, here are some arthritis pain management tips from our after-hours home doctors.

Staying warm

Think twice before going outdoors without a warm jacket and exposing your joints unnecessarily to the cold. Even a quick trip to the grocery store or just to get the mail, can make a huge difference to joint pain.

House Doctor says dressing warmly is the key, paying special attention to your head, hands and feet as a majority of body heat is lost from these areas. Some helpful winter dressing tips include:

  • Wearing loose layers when going outdoors; layers help to trap body heat to keep you warm
  • Wear mittens or gloves to protect your hands
  • Wear a hat or beanie to protect your head
  • Wear a scarf to protect your neck and trap heat escaping from your shirt
  • Wear thick socks and waterproof boots when going outside to avoid getting your feet wet or damp.

Getting active indoors

People instinctively want to curl up on the couch and hibernate during the Winter months –especially if you’re in pain. However, lack of physical activity with added cold weather, will cause joints to become stiffer and more painful.

It can be hard for arthritis patients to keep up with the outdoors exercise, but there are a few simple ways you can stay active without leaving the inside warmth:

  • Walking indoors, such as around shopping centres
  • Household chores, like vacuuming or mopping
  • Playing with children or animals
  • Swimming indoors in a heated pool or hydrotherapy
  • Taking an aerobics or yoga class
  • Listening to music and dancing
  • Using the stairs instead of an elevator
  • Stretching or doing light exercises while watching TV

Dosing up on Vitamin D

According to House Call Doctor Ryan Harvey, in colder climates, vitamin D deficiencies can lead to skeletal problems, muscular weakness and general fatigue; enhancing the already painful effects of arthritis.

House Call Doctor says it’s worth having your vitamin D levels tested and then boosting your levels in some simple ways:

  • Direct sunlight – Exposure to sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes every day can help vitamin D production in the body. By taking a stroll outside or sitting in sunlight, you’re flicking on the body’s vitamin D switch. If you can’t get outside, sit by an open window or door, because most windows block the part of sunlight needed to ignite vitamin D production.
  • Eating fish – Such as wild salmon or Atlantic mackerel are a good source of vitamin D. By consuming 85 grams a day, you will get the recommended daily mount of vitamin D. Alternatively, one tablespoon of Cod Liver oil contains the same amount of nutrients as three servings of salmon or mackerel.

  • Fortified foods – Foods such as some cereals, milks, cheese and soy products have extra vitamin D added. Make sure you read labels carefully to find the ones with the biggest vitamin D boost.
  • Vitamin D supplements – There are many over the counter options such as oils, liquids and dissolvable and chewable tablets that can improve your levels. Speak to your pharmacist or GP about the best options for you. 

For those who can’t get to a chemist, whether it be you’re in too much pain or don’t want to risk the cold, pharmacy delivery app Tonic can deliver prescription and non-prescription medications straight to your door.

If you’re suffering arthritis or want to discuss concerns regarding your joint health, House Call Doctor recommends consulting your regular GP.