According to a study from Tuffs University, for every 10-degree drop in temperature, people with arthritis will experience a noticeable increase in joint pain and discomfort. The effect of cold weather on joint pain has been discussed and studied in the scientific community for years, however, the exact reason for this is still unclear.
Some of the theories why cold & damp weather seems to exacerbate joint pain are as follows:
- Atmospheric pressure acting on the joints decreases in wintertime allowing the joints to expand a little bit resulting in stretching of tissues around the joint. This irritates nerve endings which causes pain.
- Cold weather generally causes stiffness of the muscles making them harder to move and that may be a reason people tend to perceive more pain.
- Synovial fluid which is present in the joint thickens in the cold weather resulting in less lubrication causing more pain when moving the joint.
- Cold and bleak weather conditions tend to have a negative impact on your mood, which may cause decreased pain tolerance levels.
- People prefer to stay indoors and move less in cold weather. This tends to worsen joint pain in people with arthritis or a preexisting joint condition.
To protect your joints from cold weather, it is important to dress warmly, apply heating pads to ease soreness, use the occasional OTC pain medication as recommended by your doctor, stay as active as possible to prevent joint stiffness, and try to maintain a positive outlook on life.
And remember, the next time someone says it’s going to rain because their joint pain is acting up, it might be a good idea to take an umbrella with you.
Dr. Ronak M. Patel is a fellowship-trained Sports Medicine Orthopaedic Surgeon with an interest in minimally invasive procedures and joint preservation of the knee and shoulder. He treats all sports injuries with a particular interest in anatomic ACL reconstruction, cartilage restoration, and patellar stabilization of the knee. Dr. Patel has published over 40 publications and book chapters and has presented his research over 70 times nationally and internationally. He is actively involved in research and academic meetings to provide the most current care to his patients. Dr. Patel is among a small number of physicians in Chicago performing advanced cartilage restoration and meniscal transplantation procedures, and he is extensively trained in arthroscopic management of shoulder problems including impingement, rotator cuff tears, labral tears and biceps tendonitis. Book your appointment with Dr. Patel today: (630) 929-2249.