If your joints start to ache more when the temperature drops, you’re not alone. Doctors aren’t sure exactly why, but cold weather really does make joint pain worse.
“People with arthritis, broken bones and other inflammatory conditions do say they experience more soreness in colder weather,” said Dr. Brad Homan, orthopedic surgeon and president of Celebration Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine Institute. “No one knows for sure why that happens, but the leading theory is that a drop in air pressure causes swelling and pain.”
That said, Dr. Homan believes the effect is real even though it hasn’t been scientifically verified. When he trained in chillier Ohio, patients with joint pain could tell when the weather was changing.
Even though we don’t know for sure what causes this pain, we do know some techniques for relief. Dr. Homan suggests five ways to gain control of your joint pain this winter:
- Wrap those joints. Using braces and sleeves has long been a standard pain-controlling treatment to support joints with the added benefit of keeping the joint warm. For knee pain, Dr. Homan recommends elastic sleeves that go all around the knee.
“These have the effect of not only providing support but also warming the joint,” he said.
- Maintain your exercise routine. If lousy weather puts a damper on your physical activity, look for low-impact alternatives like an elliptical, exercise bike or training with light weights. A heated pool can also help, Dr. Homan said.
“In cold weather, joints can also get stiffer, and when you exercise your joints feel better,” he said.
- Stay warm. Not surprisingly, dressing in layers and taking other steps to keep warm can cut down on pain triggered by the cold.
- Take your medicine. Over-the-counter pain relievers with acetaminophen or ibuprofen (like Tylenol and Advil) can be a good remedy for temporary pain spikes.
- Look at the big picture. Cold weather can make joint pain worse, but its cause is the same as in the summer. The same strategies you use to minimize joint pain year-round should remain priorities now, including weight loss and muscle-strengthening exercises.
At AdventHealth, we recognize that joint pain is more than a nuisance when it gets in the way of doing what you enjoy. Whether you’re looking for help preventing joint pain in the winter or year-round, we’ve got the experience and expertise to help you take control and feel like yourself again.