How to manage joint pain during a cold snap

If you’re one of the eight million or so people in the UK with osteoarthritis, you’re probably not looking forward to the inevitable drop in temperature that’s expected with the first cold snap of winter. According to the NHS, many people with arthritis find their joints become stiffer and more painful when the weather’s cold, though experts don’t know why this happens.

As there’s no cure for osteoarthritis, the key to keeping symptoms like pain and stiffness at bay is to stay in control of your condition. This may mean using pain relief medicines on a regular basis, rather than waiting until you’re in a lot of pain.

Your GP can talk to you about which type of painkiller would suit you best. Many people with arthritis take over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, both of which are available without prescription. Creams or gels that contain ibuprofen may also be effective, especially if you have osteoarthritis in your knees or hands.

Ask your pharmacist for advice on how and when to take these medicines, as it’s important that you follow the dosage your GP recommends and do not exceed the maximum dose (always read the label).

Meanwhile, there are other things you can do to help manage osteoarthritis-related stiffness and pain, including:

Weight management

If you’re overweight or obese, it can make your symptoms worse because it places extra pressure on some of your joints. Your GP can give you lots of advice if you need to lose weight. You can also get help and support from many Careway pharmacies that offer weight management services.


Staying active can help strengthen your muscles, help you lose weight (which may relieve some of the pressure on your joints) and improve your fitness in general. Swimming is an ideal exercise for people with arthritis, as it’s easy on the joints.

Drug-free treatments

Also ask your pharmacist about drug-free treatments that may help reduce your pain levels, such as TENS machines (TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). Applying hot or cold packs to painful joints may also help – products that can be heated in a microwave or cooled in a freezer are available at your local pharmacy.

Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our online Pharmacy Finder.