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Arthritis: Joint pain gets hotter in cold weather

Health & Science
 Pain for those nursing arthritis worsens during the cold season. [iStockphoto]

The ongoing cold season may exacerbate the pain that comes with arthritis and experts are advising people to stay warm.

A person with arthritis suffers pain in the joints, ankle, back, fingers, hands, neck and wrists due to inflammation in the joints.

Other signs include swelling of a joint which if not treated, can cause loss of joint function.

Nutritionists also warn that sugary foods could trigger arthritis as sugar increases inflammation in the body.

Dr Fred Otieno, a Rheumatologist at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi says pain for those nursing arthritis worsens during the cold season due to changes in air pressure (barometric pressure) that resets the pain threshold.

“There is a level of pain that the body is able to suppress which becomes difficult to suppress when it gets cold, meaning a person will feel the pain more during the cold weather,” explains Dr Otieno, adding that dressing warmly, exercising, or using heat therapy may help relieve the pain.

Arthritis is derived from two Greek words ‘arthro’ which means joints and ‘itis’ which means inflammation, therefore arthritis is the inflammation of joints.

While arthritis usually affects older adults, it can develop in men, women and children of any age.

Dr Otieno lists the two forms of arthritis as including the degenerative and the inflammatory: the degenerative is caused by wear and tear while the inflammatory is caused by diseases like autoimmune ones such as rheumatoid arthritis and metabolic diseases like gout arthritis and septic arthritis.

Dr Otieno says arthritis can be triggered depending on type: “infections can trigger flares of inflammatory arthritis, lack of medication adherence can trigger flares of arthritis and for metabolic arthritis like gout.  Certain diets could also lead to more instances of joint pains.”  

People with arthritis are advised to avoid fatty foods and processed foods which have additive causing inflammation.

Smoking and alcohol are the other no-go zones: smoking increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis while alcohol is linked to gout and other types of inflammatory arthritis.

But arthritis can be managed if diagnosed early using X-rays which show joint changes and bone damage found in some types of arthritis.

Ultrasound which uses soundwaves also comes in handy; accessing the quality of tissues, tendons, ligaments and bones besides using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and other tests like arthroscopy.

Medics, however, highly discourage self-medication as people go for a lot of painkillers triggering other problems like irritation of the stomach and kidney problems, warns Dr Otieno adding that self-care is good via exercise massages and weight loss.

But the use of ice packs is okay as it reduces inflammation and dulls the sensation of pain.

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