The short days, grey skies and darker evenings of winter can be difficult to deal with. We’re all familiar with how the cold weather can an impact on your body —but what about your joints? Well, you may have noticed that your joints tend to feel sore and achy when winter rolls around the corner. And you may have probably wondered, “Why does the cold weather make my joints hurt?”
Here are 5 ways that the cold weather can affect your joints that you may not know about.
How the Cold Weather Can Affect Your Joints
1. Expansion of tissues in joints
One of the possible ways that cold weather can affect your joints is through changes in barometric pressure. Also referred to as atmospheric pressure, barometric pressure pertains to the force exerted by air in a given atmosphere. Drops in barometric pressure leading up to cold weather can cause your joints to expand. As a result, you may experience poor blood circulation, pain and inflammation in your joints.
2. Sensitivity of joint nerves
People with osteoarthritis and cold weather don’t mix. One of the most common types of arthritis, osteoarthritis is the disease of the joints where the joint tissues deteriorate. It usually comes with age and affects the joints in your hands, hips and knees. Cold weather can exacerbate injuries of those with orthopaedic conditions and those without.
But why do injuries hurt more in cold weather? Injuries or damage to tissues can cause nerves to become more hypersensitive. Nerve sensitivity combined with lower temperatures consequently leads to increased joint pain.
3. Joint stiffness due to thickened synovial fluid
You can also be affected by cold weather in the form of joint stiffness. This is typically attributed to the thickening of the synovial fluid, which is the fluid that can be found in the joints. Its purpose is to act as a cushion and lubricator for your joints. It plays a role in your ease of movement by reducing friction whenever you move. Lower temperatures can cause the synovial fluid to thicken, which leads to joint stiffness and pain.
4. Worsened joint pain
In general, cold weather can result in joint pain. When combined with a higher level of humidity, you can experience even greater pain and stiffness. This is further heightened if a person has a decreased pain tolerance level, which can be caused by low moods due to cold weather.
5. Damage to joint due to inactivity
Periods of inactivity are another possible reason why your bones ache in cold weather. Without adequate exercise, activity or movement, muscles are weakened, which then impacts the joints. You may experience joint pain and swelling during the winter months if you are less active.
Joint Pain in Cold Weather
Cold weather affects various joints, such as those in the knees, hips, hands and ankles.
When there’s cold weather, knee pain is among the most common ailments experienced by people. Those with current or pre-existing knee injuries, in particular, are more liable to experience pain. These injuries include the following:
- Fractures, dislocations and torn ligaments
- Arthritis: If you have arthritis, cold knees may be a usual occurrence for you during the colder months.
- Patellar tendonitis: This is when the tendon linking your tibia (shinbone) and patella (kneecap) becomes inflamed. Also referred to as the jumper’s knee, patellar tendonitis is caused by stress on the tendon or overuse.
Those with hip pain or injuries also have to watch out for the winter months.
- Osteoarthritis: The most common type of arthritis, OA is also known as wear and tear arthritis.
- Bursitis: This happens when the bursa is inflamed. The bursa sac contains fluid that acts as a lubricator or cushion, reducing friction between your muscles or bones. Bursitis is painful and limits joint movement.
- Joint injury as a result of trauma
- Hip tears, dislocations, sprains and fractures
Hand and wrist pain
Various types of hand pain can be aggravated by low temperatures, which is why your finger joints hurt when it’s cold. The following are some examples:
- Rheumatoid arthritis: Occurring in the knees, wrists and hands, another common form of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. Cold weather is observed to cause flare-ups in people with RA.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: Carpal tunnel is a painful condition that afflicts the wrists and hands. It is characterised by intense pressure on your wrist nerve, specifically the median nerve. Rainy and cold conditions can aggravate carpal tunnel.
- Traumatic hand injury or fractures
- Tendonitis, which is when the tendons in your fingers or wrist become inflamed
All types of ankle pain can bring discomfort during winter, such as:
- Achilles tendinitis: This is when repetitive stress is put on the Achilles tendon, causing it to be inflamed or irritated.
- Fractures, sprains, strains or torn tendon
- Plantar fasciitis: This pertains to pain around the heel and arch of your foot. The main cause of this inflammatory condition is repetitive stress and strain placed on the soles of your feet. It is common among athletes in particular.
What Helps Joint Pain in Cold Weather?
Those afflicted with any of the aforementioned injuries or ailments do not have to suffer greater pain during winter. Here are some tips for relieving and managing joint pain and muscle pain due to cold weather:
Make sure to get adequate exercise or physical activity
- Do some gentle stretches to keep your body moving and increase flexibility
- Indulge in a massage
- Keep yourself warm by adding layers of clothes and bundling up
- Go for a warm shower or bath
- Program your thermostat to a consistently warm temperature
- Drinking plenty of fluids and having a well-balanced diet can help with joint pain in the long run