This has been reviewed and updated on 12/10/2020.
For many people living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the colder months mean an increase in foot pain, as well as general joint stiffness. Although there isn’t any scientific evidence that cold weather worsens the symptoms of RA, certain factors, such as reduced circulation and muscle spasms brought on by the cold, along with lifestyle changes during the winter, may increase discomfort. To help alleviate these symptoms, follow these tips.
How to Relieve RA Pain in the Winter
1. Stay Warm
The cold weather can reduce circulation in your hands and feet, increasing the chance of muscle spasms that cause pain. Prevent this by keeping warm and dressing in loose, comfortable layers, especially over the areas that ache.
For example, wear thick, warm socks to keep your feet cozy and arthritis gloves that add an extra layer of warmth and compression to your hands. If you have a skirt or dress on, put on leggings or tights to keep your legs and knees warm. Keep in mind that you can always take layers off if you get too hot.
Exercise is one of the best ways to manage the pain and stiffness associated with RA, but the winter temperatures drive many people indoors, knocking them off-track with their workouts. This is particularly difficult during COVID-19, as gyms may be closed or unsafe for at-risk individuals.
To help keep discomfort at bay, find indoor exercises you can do to stay active. For instance, follow a yoga or pilates video, walk on a treadmill, stroll your neighborhood on warmer days—making sure to social distance and wear a mask—or try Tai Chi. During these activities, wear comfortable, supportive shoes to protect your feet.
Your RA foot pain may be worse in the morning when you first wake up. If that’s the case, it’s best to put off your workout until later in the day when your muscles and joints have loosened up. Help this process along by doing some gentle stretches throughout the day and before your workout. This will increase blood flow to your joints, warming them up and helping you feel less stiff and sore.
Stretch muscles in the foot by doing exercises like toe salutes. Sit down, rest your feet on the floor, and lift the big toe, making sure the other toes remain on the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds at a time and then repeat. Next, lift the four toes up, keeping the big toe on the ground. Do this for a few seconds and repeat. Another option is toe squeezing. Place pedicure dividers or foam separators between each toe, squeezing the toes together for a few seconds at a time. Again, relax your foot and then repeat this process for a few sets.
Foot pain from RA doesn’t have to keep you indoors all winter. Turn to the team at Westside Podiatry Group in the Rochester, NY, area for help managing your condition. For more than 50 years, they’ve worked with people who have chronic conditions such as arthritis, gout, and peripheral vascular disease, in addition to injuries. Find out more about the practice and schedule an appointment by visiting their website or calling (585) 225-2290.