The temperature has fallen, and if you live with a condition affecting your joints, like osteoarthritis, you may notice increased pain, aches, and stiffness. It’s not clear why your symptoms worsen in the cold, but certain measures can help you feel more comfortable in wintertime, without medications or surgery. Plus, these measures can help reduce your injury risks and prevent additional damage.
Is There a Connection Between Cold Weather and Joint Pain?
There is no definite reason why you experience more joint pain and discomfort in colder temperatures. A long-held theory is that as barometric pressure — the atmosphere’s amount of air pressure — falls, your tendons, muscles, and surrounding tissues expand. As they’re confined within your body, your joints, especially those affected by arthritis, feel more pain, aches, and stiffness.
Research suggests that while cold, wet weather doesn't cause arthritis, it can boost pain sensitivity. You may also have higher muscle spasms, pain sensitivity, and slow blood circulation. Weather conditions also affect mood, so if you’re feeling the winter blues, it can exacerbate your pain perception.
Helpful Steps to Manage Joint Pain in the Cold
By following some lifestyle changes and self-care tips, you can successfully manage joint pain and stay safe and comfortable in the winter.
Dress and Stay Warm
While it may seem obvious, you should shield your sensitive joints by wearing warm, comfortable clothes, like hats, gloves, and scarves. By wearing layers, you can control your temperature, adding or removing them as necessary. Boosting your home’s heat sources, such as electric heating pads and blankets, and using programmable thermostats, can benefit arthritis and joint pain. You may also decide to (carefully) move your furniture and bed away from windows.
Soak in Warm Water
The combination of heat and moisture may reduce arthritis pain more than either on its own. A hot tub, sauna, or steam room can help to soothe and loosen stiff joints. At home, a hot bath is recommended, and keeping the doors closed to build up steam. Swimming in a heated pool soothes joints and is a great, low-impact exercise option.
Engage in Exercise
Regular physical activity helps to manage and reduce arthritis and joint pain and boosts energy, strength, and flexibility. Regular exercise also releases endorphins, reduces stress, and improves your sense of well-being. Try to get at least 150 minutes weekly of moderate-intensity exercise, but first check with your doctor. Indoors, you may consider activities like yoga or riding a stationary bicycle. Outdoors, a short walk may help your joint pain. Include strength-training sessions to increase muscle and bone strength, which reduces joint pressure.
Smarter, Safer Movement
Before any activity, always stretch to help loosen stiff joints and reduce injury risks, and avoid unnecessary strain during daily activities. You should start with simple movements, like knee bends and rolling your wrists and ankles. Massage, even on your own, can reduce joint pain and pressure and loosen muscles. When outdoors, always protect your joints to avoid slipping and falling on the ice. Try to move slowly, avoid non-slick surfaces and obstacles, and wear solid, supportive shoes with good treads.
Seek Out Orthopedic Care
The truth is, no matter how careful and prepared you are, injuries may still occur. But should you slip on the ice or suffer a fall — especially if you have an existing joint-related condition — don’t be a hero, suffering through the pain. Instead, you should visit an orthopedic specialist as soon as possible to ensure that the injury heals and doesn’t cause long-lasting damage.
Visit an Orthopedic Specialist for Joint Pain
You can take steps to maintain your joint function and safety in colder weather. But should you experience or worsen an existing injury, we encourage you to connect with the orthopedic specialists at The Orthopedic Health Center in Hoboken and Jersey City, NJ today.
Appointments available now.