As a nation, we just love talking about the weather! With Winter on its way, chances are sometime soon, you’ll be chatting about how the cold affects our body aches and pains. But does joint pain get worse in Winter, or is that an old wives’ tale?
The relationship between cold weather and joint pain is not new; it dates back as far as Hippocrates! We all know someone who swears they can predict a change in the weather with their creaky old hip. And how many people say their arthritis gets worse or joints more stiff as the weather gets colder? These are universally shared experiences, so common most of us accept and even expect it to happen.
So with Winter coming, should you be prepared for more aches and pains?
Despite years of research, there’s no clear evidence linking cold weather to joint pain.
Some researchers support a connection, describing increased pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility as the most common complaints. Cold, damp weather appears to be the worst combination for increased symptoms (Deall, 2016).
Research also suggests some people are simply more ‘weather-sensitive,’ reporting greater pain, longer duration and more sleep disturbances” (Deall, 2016). It seems women are generally more affected than men.
Still, plenty of researchers report no relationship between weather and joint pain at all.
So are Winter aches and pain all in our head?
Again, maybe not…
Humidity and temperature affect the expansion and contraction of tendons, muscles, bones and tissue, impacting how pain might be felt in a joint. Low temperatures increase the viscosity of synovial fluid, and this can result in more stiffness and sensitivity (Timmermans, 2015).
The colder, darker months can also have a mood lowering effect for some people, and this can increase the perception of pain and immobility.
Science or myth, some people simply feel more joint pain in Winter. If that’s you, this may help:
Joint pain and inflammatory symptoms are affected by body weight, tissue health, hormones and inflammatory factors (Deall 2016, Lee, 2018).
Addressing these is beneficial rain, hail or shine!
- An anti-inflammatory diet can help. Healthy oils, nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables and dark berries are great. Less sugar, alcohol and red meat helps too (Chehade, 2019, Goia, 2020). Anti-inflammatory ‘nutraceuticals’ may provide extra support.
- Exercise and weight loss are both helpful and have been researched extensively. A trial of patients with knee osteoarthritis found exercise and weight loss safe and effective with low risk or side effects, recommending these for all patients (Charlesworth, 2019). As little as 20 mins each day helps (Akram, 2021).
- Yoga may help in various ways. Stretch and movement supports circulation and delivers nutrients to fascia, easing muscle movement. Central nervous system benefits of yoga may help reduce pain perception (Akram, 2021).
- Finally, regulating your home environment may help too. Maintaining a steady temperature and using a dehumidifier to reduce damp may improve your reactivity to weather change.
These practical actions help support general joint health and are a great compliment to your other treatments, whatever the weather!
Courtesy Agnesa Simcic, Clinical Nutritionist, Yoga teacher, & Content Manager for Chalmers Dale.
For more info see https://www.chalmersdale.com.au/cararthron.
Akram, A., Georgiou, P., Shi, W., Proute, M., Serhiyenia, T., & Pradeep, R. et al. (2021). Impact of Change in Lifestyle and Exercise on Cognitive Function in Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Systematic Review. Cureus. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.18268
Azzouzi, H., & Ichchou, L. (2020). Seasonal and Weather Effects on Rheumatoid Arthritis: Myth or Reality?. Pain Research And Management, 2020, 1-5. https://doi.org/10.1155/2020/5763080
Charlesworth, J., Fitzpatrick, J., Perera, N., & Orchard, J. (2019). Osteoarthritis- a systematic review of long-term safety implications for osteoarthritis of the knee. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-019-2525-0
Chehade, L., Jaafar, Z., El Masri, D., Zmerly, H., Kreidieh, D., & Tannir, H. et al. (2019). Lifestyle Modification in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Dietary and Physical Activity Recommendations Based on Evidence. Current Rheumatology Reviews, 15(3), 209-214. https://doi.org/10.2174/1573397115666190121135940
Deall, C., & Majeed, H. (2016). Effect of Cold Weather on the Symptoms of Arthritic Disease: A Review of the Literature. Journal Of General Practice, 04(05). https://doi.org/10.4172/2329-9126.1000275
Gioia, C., Lucchino, B., Tarsitano, M., Iannuccelli, C., & Di Franco, M. (2020). Dietary Habits and Nutrition in Rheumatoid Arthritis: Can Diet Influence Disease Development and Clinical Manifestations?. Nutrients, 12(5), 1456. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12051456
Lee, M., Ohde, S., Urayama, K., Takahashi, O., & Fukui, T. (2018). Weather and Health Symptoms. International Journal Of Environmental Research And Public Health, 15(8), 1670. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15081670
Timmermans, E., Schaap, L., Herbolsheimer, F., Dennison, E., Maggi, S., & Pedersen, N. et al. (2015). The Influence of Weather Conditions on Joint Pain in Older People with Osteoarthritis: Results from the European Project on OSteoArthritis. The Journal Of Rheumatology, 42(10), 1885-1892. https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.141594