As the weather begins to cool down, chances are you have begun to notice a change in your joints. In fact, some people even say that they can tell when it is going to rain based on how their joints feel that particular day. While this is a commonly accepted phenomenon, have you ever wondered what cold weather does to your joints to make them feel a certain way? Although there is no commonly accepted scientific reason why cold weather makes your joints feel a certain way, there are a few factors that may be able to provide an explanation for why your joints change when the temperature drops. These factors include:
Thickening of Joint Fluid
Synovial fluid is the shock-absorbing fluid inside the joint. Synovial fluid is normally the consistency of an egg white to allow for proper and unencumbered joint movement. However, in colder temperatures synovial fluid thickens, which impedes its ability to flow freely. As a result, the joints can become stiff or “creaky”.
Barometric Pressure Changes
Barometric pressure, also known as atmospheric pressure, is basically the weight of air and it changes with the weather. In warm weather, barometric pressure is high, while cold weather causes barometric pressure to drop. When barometric pressure drops, the tissues in your joint expand slightly, which can result in joint pain.
Increased Nerve Sensitivity
This is most commonly seen in individuals who have current or past joint injuries. Scarring, inflammation, or adhesions can also cause the nerves to become hypersensitive in cold weather. The result is joint pain that occurs when the temperature drops.
When cold weather is accompanied by high levels of humidity, this can also worsen joint pain. Although the exact reason for this is unknown, some researchers believe that high humidity is harmful to bone and cartilage cells.
Lack of Activity
Generally speaking, people are less active during the colder months. Since many joint conditions respond well to frequent exercise or stretching, prolonged periods of inactivity can lead to worse joint pain.
How to Protect Your Joints from the Cold:
- Stay Warm: while this can be easier said than done, taking steps to keep yourself warmer can help to reduce joint pain from cold weather. Using electric blankets, wearing the proper warm clothing, and warming the car and house are all ways to keep your joints warmer.
- Stay active: even when it is cold, it is important to stay mildly active to prevent joint pain from inactivity. Simply taking some time to do daily stretches can help to keep your joints moving.
- Manage swelling: if you start to notice swelling in your joints, be sure to take additional measures to prevent swelling. This can include wearing snug gloves or clothes, as well as using bands or braces to manage swelling.
- Improve your mood: your psychological well-being directly affects your ability to tolerate pain. Therefore, improving your mood by doing things that make you happy can help to manage your joint pain. Additionally, it is important to make sure you are eating healthy and getting enough sleep.
- Pain medications: finally, it may be necessary to take pain medications to help manage your discomfort. Your doctor can provide information about the type, dose, and frequency of pain medications.