Man with joint pain in the snow.

Why Do My Joints Hurt in the Cold?

While there is no single explanation on why cold weather can affect the joints and cause pain, experts have several possible explanations.

Changes in barometric pressure, or the pressure of the air, can affect the body. When barometric pressure drops, tendons, muscles, and surrounding tissues expand. This expansion can induce discomfort, given the confined space within the body. When the cartilage that cushions the bones inside a joint has been worn away, the nerves in exposed bones might pick up on changes in pressure. Humidity, precipitation, and temperature are also at play with weather, making it challenging for scientists to pinpoint the precise cause.

Low temperatures can make the fluid inside joints thicker, thus making them feel stiffer. When temperatures drop, nerves and blood vessels in extremities constrict, reducing blood flow to preserve warmth for vital organs. This vascular response can lead to stiff and achy joints. Rainy, chilly days also contribute to a decrease in physical activity. When people become less active, joints can become inactive and subsequently stiffen. Those with arthritis and chronic pain are more vulnerable to cold weather discomfort.

To fend off winter joint discomfort, consider adopting these proactive measures:

Bundle Up: Combat the cold by dressing in layers, indulge in warm showers or baths, and cozy up with a heating pad or electric blanket to soothe your muscles.

Stay Active: Keep your muscles and joints agile by engaging in low-impact exercises such as walking, yoga, or swimming. Steer clear of unnecessary joint strain, like lifting heavy objects.

Prioritize Rest and Nutrition: Ensure a good night’s sleep, maintain a healthy diet, and foster a positive mindset. These factors can positively impact various facets of your health, potentially alleviating joint pain.

The impact of weather on joint pain highlights the need for a holistic lifestyle approach. Adopting lifestyle changes can play a pivotal role in combating winter joint discomfort. For individuals seeking personalized guidance and specialized care, the expertise of a physical therapist can be instrumental in managing and mitigating the effects of joint pain.

The assistance of a qualified physical therapist can provide targeted and individualized solutions. A physical therapist, with their knowledge of biomechanics, exercise physiology, and rehabilitation techniques, can tailor a treatment plan to address the specific needs of individuals experiencing joint pain. Through collaborative efforts, individuals can work towards enhancing joint mobility, reducing pain, and improving overall quality of life, even in the face of challenging weather conditions. Embracing a comprehensive approach that combines personal initiatives with professional guidance is key to effectively managing joint pain, ensuring a more comfortable and active lifestyle.

Source: UChicago Medicine, Columbia University Irving Medical Center