The Effects of Cold on Your Joints

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Joint pain is the sensation of discomfort, inflammation, soreness, achiness, or stiffness in one or more joints. It’s usually caused by arthritis or injury and is a very common problem. Every year over a million people consult their GP with osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, there’s no cure for osteoarthritis but there are a number of treatments to relieve the symptoms.

Does a change in weather really increase joint pain?

The conclusions of studies and research conducted in this area are equivocal, with some offering conflicting answers. Yet many patients themselves claim that changes in the weather does have an effect on their joint pain and that they can feel a change in their pain before rain or cold weather occurs.

One theory suggests that it is not the weather itself that causes increased pain, but the barometric pressure changes associated with changing weather. Arthritic or injured joints which are already prone to inflammation may be affected by lower air pressure that causes the soft tissue around your joints to expand and swell, resulting in pain.

There’s also speculation that cold weather thickens the fluid in your joints and this makes movement more painful.

Additionally, if you suffer from osteoarthritis in your knee, physiotherapists often recommend heat and ice treatment which suggests that the joints are influenced by changes in temperature.

Confusing though it may be, there are some key facts experts agree on. These include: climate does not cause arthritis, and bad weather may trigger symptoms but this does not mean your condition is worsening.

So, if symptoms may be increased as it gets colder, what can you do to relieve and reduce these symptoms during the wintertime?

Joint health action plan for cold weather

Try to exercise

Often during the colder months, we don’t get as much exercise as the warmer months. But movement helps keep your joints lubricated and your muscles strong so that they can protect your joints from impact and strain.

Regular exercise will also ease stiffness, improve your circulation, help maintain bone density, improve sleep and boost your mood.

If you don’t want to go out in the cold, you could plan indoor activities, such as swimming, walking around a shopping centre or taking a yoga class.

Keep warm

Dress in layers as they trap body heat and keep you warm. Wear a hat, gloves and scarf when you go out. Keep the house warm and your joints away from draughts.

Eat a healthy diet

Make sure you keep to a balanced healthy diet with plenty of fruit and veg, lean red meat, oily fish, nuts and seeds.

Maintain a healthy weight

Comfort eating and hibernation are synonymous with the winter months, but make sure you keep an eye on your weight and that it doesn’t creep up as this will put more strain on your joints.

Stay positive

Being positive and optimistic can help you cope with pain better. So, arrange to see friends and family, get out and about and do the things that make you happy.

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