Cold Weather and Joint Pain: Is There a Connection?
Updated: Jan 14, 2021
When the weather turns wet or cold, we’ve all heard someone say, “I can feel it in my bones.” And most of us have a relative who swears they can predict the weather with their back, hips or knees. Maybe you’ve experienced it yourself. When the mercury drops, your joints freeze up and you feel stiff, achy and weak. Normal, everyday activities seem harder.
It’s not just your imagination or an old wives’ tale. There is some evidence the weather really does affect how well our joints work.
Researchers from Tufts University found that temperature drops can correspond with an increase in joint pain. However, they also cautioned that the cause could be the drop in barometric pressure. While the cause is inconclusive, many Osteoarthritis patients can definitely attest to the connection between weather and joint pain.
Weather-related joint pain and stiffness can be an early sign of Osteoarthritis. While the research is ongoing, and the exact cause is not yet determined, the effects you feel when the temperature and pressure change are clear.
Here’s How Weather May Affect Your Joints
Changes in atmospheric conditions, including barometric pressure, may lead to swelling in joints, which adds pressure to joints, where there may already be arthritic damage. This may be why some people can “predict” storms or cold snaps before they happen.
Temperature may also affect joint pain, stiffness and weakness. When the mercury drops enough, the cold may cause joint fluid to thicken, causing pain. Less blood flow may lead to colder, stiffer joints, resulting in reduced function. This may be why you may have no trouble on most days, but find it hard to get around on cold or wet days.
Weather-Proofing Your Joints
One of the best ways to avoid joint pain and stiffness when the weather changes is to keep the bones and protective tissue of the joints healthy. Here are a few simple ways to protect your joints and prevent joint pain.
Hydrate for health – Dehydration is one of the most common factors that lead to joint disease. When cartilage in our joints and the protective discs in our spine become less hydrated or the synovial fluid that keeps them lubricated is reduced, this leads to increased rubbing, scraping and damage over time. Making sure to drink plenty of water will help keep your joints hydrated and healthier.
Diet makes a difference – Eating foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamins C and K will help keep your immune system healthy, fight inflammation and preserve joint elasticity and flexibility. Items to consider adding to your grocery cart include salmon, nuts, spinach, kale, greens, oranges, red peppers (the sweet ones), tomatoes and carrots.
You may also consider avoiding certain foods that may trigger inflammation, including refined sugar, saturated fats, corn oil, vegetable oil (fried foods), artificial sweeteners and anything with MSG.
Exercise equals prevention – One of the best ways to keep your joints from stiffening up is to keep them active. Cycles of extensive joint stress with little rest can increase the development of Osteoarthritis. However, getting in the habit of daily, low-impact exercise can strengthen and protect your joints long-term.
If the weather conditions outside are too much for you to get out and exercise, there are several low-impact exercises you can do indoors to keep your joints healthy, strong and flexible. Start with a series of stretches, then try low-impact exercises based on your personal ability. The key here is to keep moving, just be sure to contact your physician before starting an exercise routine.
At-Home Treatment for Joint Pain and Stiffness
If you are already experiencing joint pain, whatever the cause, there are a few at-home treatments you may try. Start with the RICE method: rest, ice, compression and elevation. Rest your joints periodically; use ice or cold packs to reduce inflammation and heat to increase blood flow, wrap the joint using medical bandages or a brace to reduce inflammation, and elevate the joint above your heart to minimize swelling.
You may also consider over-the-counter pain reducers such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen. As with any medication, heed all warnings and do not take these medication if you already have any sensitivity or allergies to those drugs.
If the pain persists, seek medical care. Many causes of joint pain are progressive and degenerative, meaning they will continue to get worse, not better. The sooner you seek treatment, the better your options and prognosis will be.
Here’s what to expect during your first office visit:
Patient interview: Dr. Skaliy will discuss your symptoms, including the timing, duration and severity, as well as other factors that affect your symptoms.
Possible diagnostic imaging: Sometimes the best way to determine the location and extent of the damage is through the use of diagnostic imaging including X-rays, MRI or a CT scan
If over-the-counter pain medications, physical therapy or other conservative treatments are not helping, Dr. Skaliy may recommend an Epidural Steroid Injection for temporary relief of pain and inflammation.
A Proven Option for Joint Pain Relief
For long-term relief of persistent or chronic joint pain, stiffness, weakness and other symptoms of Osteoarthritis, Dr. Skaliy may recommend SCT – Regenerative Medicine. This proven medical procedure has helped up to 90 percent of patients suffering from joint pain due to Osteoarthritis find lasting relief.
In many cases, SCT – Regenerative Medicine is preferable to joint surgery, because there are fewer risks, much less pain, no invasive procedures, and no long, painful physical therapy afterward. Best of all, the majority of patients who receiveSCT – Regenerative Medicine report a continuing decrease in pain, inflammation and joint stiffness. In fact, many who have been told they “require” surgery have been able to indefinitely postpone that surgery or put if off forever, thanks to SCT – Regenerative Medicine.