Why does Cold Weather make Joint Pain Worse?

For years many people have said they know when the weather is about to change, or when cold or wet weather is looming, due to various aches, pains and swelling in their joints.

Most of us have had a friend or relative that has said the weather makes their joint pain worse, especially with cooler damper weather changes.

A look at why cold weather can make joint pain worseSome have said they know within just a few days beforehand when the weather will change. Interestingly many of these predictions have been accurate.

As there was no scientific evidence for many years to back up this theory, joint pain sufferers were often told their predictions were not valid, and their claims were often put down to having been a coincidence.

How ever, many joint pain sufferers have continued to experience a flare up of sore joints when cooler weather is looming, so have stayed adamant that weather can be associated with joint pain.

Scientists don’t all agree that weather makes joint pain worse, but many doctors continue to see high rates of patients reporting extra joint pain just before or during cool or wet weather periods.

Although there is a large disagreement among scientists, there is a plausible explanation about why weather can make joint pain worse.

How the Weather can make Joint Pain Worse

In theory, it’s caused by barometric pressure. This is the pressure exerted by air, and it often drops before a storm.

The joints contain sensory nerves called baro-receptors which respond to changes in atmospheric pressure.  These baro-receptors often react when there is a low barometric pressure in the air. Another words, when the atmosphere has changed from dry to moist, like at times when its going to rain.

When the barometric pressure drops one or both things below happen…

  • The amount of fluid in the joint fluctuates
  • The pressure inside the joint fluctuates

This barometer usually drops within a few days before the weather change, which is why many will feel  extra pain before the actual weather change.  At this time, the many that have arthritis, an old injury, fibromyalgia or have too much weight bearing on their joints, are likely to notice extra pain in the joints

Dr Parvizi Explains Why Cold Weather makes Joint Pain Worse


Tips to Soothe your Joint Pain when Out & About

Unfortunately no one can control the weather, but  there are various methods that help to alleviate pain and discomfort associated with joint pain.

  • Stay inside in the warmth as much as possible when cool weather is likely and in the cooler months.
  • Try to keep dry when outside.
  • Wear thermal underwear when weather is cold.
  • If you are caught outside and the weather looks due to change, try going on a brisk walk to keep your circulation going to warm the joints before joint pain flares up.
  • If caught outside when the weather changes try to stop at a coffee shop.  Holding a hot drink when cold certainly warms the hands up and can give a therapeutic effect at the same time.
  • When possible – Take a hat, scarf, gloves and extra coat with you when going out.
  • Take any pain killers or natural supplement pain relief with you when out.
  • Invest in a fold up walking stick (these are great for times when hip or knee joints stiffen up).
  • A pair of UGG boots is another item worth getting, particularly if you need to go to watch sports games etc.
  • Should you be caught in the cold outside, and arrive home in a lot of pain, a hot bath can be very effective at relaxing stiff aching joints.

Note:  It is always best practice to consult your healthcare professional to see what may be causing you joint pain, particularly if your pain is constant. Constant joint pain could mean the cushioning of the cartilage has worn down to nothing – also known as end stage arthritis.

Article written by Wen Dee

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