Rheumatoid Arthritis: NHS on common signs and symptoms
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As the temperature dial dwindles down to single digits, with some evenings reaching zero degrees, it is common for arthritis to play up more frequently. You can, however, take proactive action to mitigate such effects. Those with inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, would benefit from getting the flu jab. The research organisation for people living with arthritis, Creaky Joints, elaborated on why this is the case.
“[Arthritis] compromises how well your body fights off infections,” Creaky Joints noted.
“And certain medications used to control the disease can further weaken the immune system.”
If you have achy joints, as well as a severe infection, then muscle aches could be more noticeable.
“People with inflammatory arthritis should get the inactivate vaccine (the flu shot), which contains killed viruses,” Creaky joints added.
This is because getting the flu vaccine can help prevent you from getting seriously ill, the NHS clarified.
Early winter is an ideal time to get the flu vaccine, before the infection starts spreading like wildfire.
People can have the NHS flu vaccine at:
- Your GP surgery
- A pharmacy offering the service
- Your midwifery service if you’re pregnant
- A hospital appointment.
Another way to ease the severity of painful joints this winter is to “stay active”.
“Physical activity helps ease pain, increase strength and flexibility, and boost energy,” the organisation explained.
“Avoiding exercise because you’re worried it can make your arthritis worse is a big misconception.”
Adults with arthritis who have normal physical function, and no other severe health conditions, are recommended to exercise each week for at least 150 minutes.
This sentiment is echoed by the NHS, who added it needs to be “moderate intensity activity”.
Moderate intensity activities can include:
- Brisk walking
- Water aerobics
- Riding a bike
- Doubles tennis
- Pushing a lawn mower
In addition to being up to date with vaccinations and keeping active, it also helps to “keep warm”.
“Heat is like a spring thaw for your stiff joints. It boosts blood flow to help flush out pain-producing chemicals and stimulates receptors in your skin that improve your pain tolerance,” Creaky Joints pointed out.
“Warmth also relaxes muscles to decrease spasms and reduce stiffness.”
There are a number of ways to keep warm, including a steamy bath, dressing warmly, and using heating pads.
Why does arthritis play up during the winter?
One hypothesis is that a fall in barometric pressure, which occurs during a cold snap of weather, could cause joints to expand, causing more tender joints.
Low temperatures may also increase the thickness of synovial fluid, which acts like the joint’s shock absorber.
As such, this can make joints more stiff and sensitive to pain.
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