You’ve probably heard someone say that they can tell when it’s going to rain because, “I can feel it in my bones.” Or maybe you’ve experienced aching joints when the temperature drops. While it’s true that many doctors believe that some people can feel more joint pain on cold and rainy days, the research on the connection between the two isn’t clear.
Cold Weather and Joint Pain
When it gets cold outside, our bodies naturally try to keep us warm and redirects some blood flow to important organs like the heart and lungs. This takes warmth away from our joints, which can cause discomfort and aches. Cold and inclement weather also keeps us inside and not as active as we might normally be, which can cause stiffness.
How Does Barometric Pressure Affect Joint Pain and Arthritis?
One theory is that changes in barometric pressure affect people with joint pain, especially arthritis because the cartilage that cushions the bones has worn away and nerves in the exposed bones pick up on changes in pressure. When the barometric pressure drops, it’s believed that inflamed areas of our bodies, such as the knees, hips, hands, elbows, and shoulders can swell, which can irritate nerves and increase pain.
Another theory is that changes in barometric pressure cause tendons, muscles, and any scar tissue to expand and contract, which can cause pain in joints affected by arthritis. The only thing most can agree on is that weather affects some people and not others.
A 2015 study of 133 rheumatoid arthritis patients published in Rheumatology International found that their disease activity (swollen joints and pain) was lower when the weather was sunny and dry.
How to Reduce Joint Pain
If you experience joint pain or flare-ups when the weather turns, you’re not alone. Even though the science isn’t clear, many people are sensitive to changes in the weather. Here are some things you can do that will help reduce your joint pain:
- Stay healthy. Eat a balanced, nutritional diet and stay hydrated. One of the benefits of eating well is that you can shed some weight, which will take the stress off your joints.
- Take vitamins. By supplementing your diet with vitamin D and fish oil, which is rich in omega 3 and helps reduce inflammation, you can see benefits to your joints. Also, we don’t get as much vitamin D in the winter, which can make your joints hurt more.
- Stay active. Exercise is good for your entire body and can help reduce joint stiffness. Try low-impact exercises like riding a stationary bike, swimming, and stretching, which helps maintain your mobility and warms up your joints.
- Apply heat. Warm water helps soothe your joints, so take a bath when you’re feeling joint pain. Heating pads also work but limit your time to no more than 20 minutes.
- Take NSAIDs. Talk to your doctor about non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin, which can help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Apply cold. Use an ice pack to reduce swelling.
- Get a massage. This is a great way to relax the muscles around your joints.
- Be safe. Wear sturdy shoes and walk carefully to avoid falls, especially when the weather brings icy surfaces. And try to avoid lifting heavy objects, which can strain your joints.
Consult a Doctor
If you’re experiencing joint pain and/or arthritis, call your doctor or contact Baptist Health to schedule an appointment.