Give Arthritis the Cold Shoulder

Mother Nature is giving much of the country an early taste of winter this week, and for some of us that means our arthritis pain is going to act up, too. It makes you wonder: Does cold weather really make arthritis worse, or is it all in our heads?

When our joints get cold, inflamed tissue shrinks down and pulls against the nerves. But that’s not the main reason arthritis seems worse during winter months. You can blame our more sedentary lifestyles for that. And I have to admit, reading by the fire or working on a crossword puzzle is a whole lot more appealing than bundling up and heading outside for a walk. Being less active leads to stiffer joints.

But you don’t have to weather the elements to work exercise into your day. Many shopping malls open their doors before the stores are open just so folks can enjoy protection from the great outdoors while they walk. If the weather’s too bad for you to drive, set up a mini-walking course in your house, or march in place while you’re watching TV.

You can spend a whole lot of time, money, and energy trying different ways to relieve arthritis pain and stiffness. But you may be able to solve the problem yourself with one (or more!) of these DIY remedies:

  • Eat 15 to 20 sweet bing cherries every day.
  • Drink plenty of green tea.
  • Eat fruits and nuts — like pears, apples, and almonds — that contain the trace element boron.
  • Try this old-fashioned gin-soaked raisin remedy. To make it, put 1 cup of golden raisins (not black!) in a shallow glass bowl, and pour in just enough gin to cover them completely. Cover the bowl lightly, and let the raisins soak for a week or so, until they’ve absorbed all of the gin. Store them in a covered glass jar at room temperature, and eat nine raisins every day. Some folks report improvement after less than a week, while it takes others a month or more to get relief. Full disclosure: There are people for whom this remedy doesn’t work at all. But it’s easy and inexpensive to make, it’s delicious, and it has none of the side effects that many prescription meds can deliver.