Those taking care of elderly loved ones with arthritis know that this condition can present some significant challenges. Arthritis can impact mobility and make it difficult to grip and hold items, among other issues. Caregivers – and their patients – therefore need to know as much about arthritis as possible in order to ease or prevent some of the problems they face. One thing they need to know: the weather can indeed have an effect on a person’s arthritis.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, changes in weather can affect not only arthritis, but other conditions too, such as asthma or migraines. But why should weather make any difference to how arthritis is experienced?
According to a 2007 research study from Tufts University, there’s a fairly consistent correlation between dropping temperatures and increasing arthritis pain. Basically, every ten degree loss corresponds to an incremental increase in joint pain. In addition, there is an increase in arthritis pain when the barometric pressure drops.
Barometric pressure often drops before bad weather begins. That’s why one often hears stories of someone saying that they know it’s going to rain because their joints are aching. While it’s not 100% accurate, there is often some validity to this ability to forecast weather.
The Arthritis Foundation offers a weather-arthritis index (http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/tools-resources/weather/) which those taking care of elderly people may find useful. Just by submitting one’s zip code, a person can get basic weather information for the day – including an “arthritis index,” which estimates the probable amount of joint pain to expect based upon weather conditions.
Weather-related arthritis pain tends to be only as long-lived as the weather itself. But there are some steps, in addition to following treatments prescribed by the doctor, that those caring for elderly arthritis patients can take to help with the pain:
- Keep the patient warm. Dressing appropriately and keeping the home (and car!) properly heated can be a big help in easing arthritis pain.
- Loosen up the joints. Before venturing out of the nice warm house into cold or rainy weather, exercise the joints and get some of the stiffness out.
- Watch swelling. Swelling in joints is often due to fluid getting into the joints. Take steps to prevent this. For example, it may help to wear gloves at night that help to limit fluid accumulating in the hands.
Of course, if arthritis pain becomes a problem, those taking care of elderly loved ones should consult with a doctor for solutions. A doctor is in a good position to make recommendations based on a person’s specific level of health.