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Thu, Jan. 23

Managing your arthritis as fall weather arrives

Many of us have known people who claim to predict the weather based on their aches and pains. Although researchers have yet to prove a definite connection between changes in weather and arthritis pain, our knees or other joints may tell us otherwise.

If changes in weather increase your arthritis pain, you're certainly not alone. In fact, The Weather Channel's website, www.weather.com, even posts an "Aches & Pains Index" that forecasts the potential for weather-related aches and pains by zip code. The index takes into account barometric pressure, absolute humidity, chance of precipitation, temperature and wind. It then scores the area on a scale from very high (9-10) to minimal (1-2).

The good news is that doctors and researchers do not believe that weather can make arthritis worse. It may, however, affect its symptoms. One current theory is that a drop in barometric pressure may cause tissue around the joints to swell and create arthritis pain. However, the swelling may be so subtle that it cannot be detected by scientific means.

With cooler fall temperatures on the way, here are a few helpful tips from the Arthritis Foundation for managing arthritis pain:

• Use heat and cold. Alternating hot and cold treatments can reduce pain and stiffness. Cold packs can numb the sore area and reduce inflammation, while heat relaxes muscles and stimulates blood circulation.

• Consider massage. Massage can bring warmth and relaxation to painful areas. If you do self-massage, never massage a joint that is very swollen and always stop if you feel any pain. When selecting a professional massage, look for a therapist that has experience working with people who have arthritis.

• Dress warmly. Wearing multiple layers of clothing in colder weather can trap warm air and help retain body heat to prevent joint pain. A few fabrics to consider are silk, down, wool and fleece.

Getting regular exercise may also strengthen the joint-supporting structures of your body and increase flexibility. Your physician or a physical therapist can recommend the types of movements that are best for you.

To minimize arthritis pain, it can also help to maintain a healthy weight. According to the Arthritis Foundation, losing just 10 pounds can take 30 to 60 pounds of pressure off your knees.

Consult with your physician before implementing new pain control measures. With your doctor's advice and these tips, you should be ready to enjoy the cool, crisp fall temperatures.

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