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Cold Weather Hurting Your Joints: Here Is the Reason Why?

Pathkind Team 1397 Views
Updated: 13 Oct 2023
Published: 21 Mar 2023
Managing Joint Pain

As temperatures drop, so do our joints. Cold weather can be particularly uncomfortable for people with arthritis and joint pains, as it can elevate symptoms and cause stiffness and discomfort. But why does cold weather make our joints hurt? The reason why dropping temperatures affect your joints is a debatable matter. Some theories state that lower barometric pressure causes tendons, muscles, and surrounding tissues to expand, resulting in joint pain, while other theories state that humidity, inactivity, and increased nerve sensitivity cause joint pain.

In this article, we will discuss the science behind why cold weather can be painful for those with joint pain and arthritis and some tips on how to manage the discomfort.

Barometric pressure

During cold weather, the barometric pressure(atmospheric pressure) changes significantly. It is believed that the barometric pressure drops during cold chilly weather causing tissues and nerves of the body to expand, activating pain receptors.  As a result of that change in the atmosphere, arthritis symptoms and other common joint problems may become more pronounced.

Thickening of Joint Fluid

The synovial fluid serves as a shock-absorbent inside the joints. This fluid has a consistency similar to egg white allowing the joints to move without interference. As the temperature drops, the synovial fluid thickens, making it harder to flow freely, leading to stiff and creaky joints.

Increased nerve sensitivity

Individuals who have sustained a joint injury recently or in the past are most likely to suffer from this. Scarring, inflammation, or adhesions can also cause hypersensitivity in nerves during cold weather. As a result, joints become sore when the temperature drops. Some joint injuries include knee trauma, Temporomandibular Joint dysfunction, and patellofemoral syndrome.

Knee trauma

Knee trauma due to nerve sensitivity during winter can be a painful experience. The cold temperatures associated with wintertime can bring on sharp, burning sensations in the knees and joints, making everyday activities difficult. An individual's nerve sensitivity to cold weather can cause dangerous knee joint pain if not addressed correctly.

The discomfort caused by nerve sensitivity can range from mild to intense pain that impacts the joint’s mobility. This type of pain is usually a result of inflamed nerves that are triggered by cold temperatures or even contact with something cold, such as metal objects or ice packs. Additionally, physical activities like running and jumping may also aggravate existing knee issues due to their high-impact nature.

To reduce the risk of knee trauma caused by nerve sensitivity during winter, individuals must take steps toward protecting their joints from further damage by indulging in exercise and opting for warm clothes.

Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction

The temporomandibular joints are a pair of joints that connect the jaw to the skull. Temporomandibular joint Dysfunction (TMD) is the dysfunction of the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joints, and nerves that produce chronic facial pain and other symptoms. Arthritis and disk displacements in the jaw joint can also trigger TMD symptoms. Thus people with muscle and bone injuries suffer from joint pain in winter.

Although anyone can suffer from TMJ during any season, certain factors increase its prevalence during winter. Colder temperatures often lead to increased jaw clenching due to stress and anxiety.

Patellofemoral syndrome

An individual who suffers from patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) feels pain in front of the knee and around the patella, or kneecap, of the knee joint. Sports participants are more likely to develop this type of condition, especially females and young people. Winter can be a difficult time for those dealing with this condition.

Though patellofemoral syndrome may worsen during winter months, there are still ways to alleviate and manage symptoms. Staying active during cold weather will help promote circulation in the legs, reducing discomfort caused by the condition. Wearing appropriate clothing, such as thermal layer leggings or tights, can also help keep joints warm while exercising outside or indoors.

Inactivity

As winter weather sets in and the temperature drops, many people struggle to stay active. Unfortunately, cold weather can make the physical activity even more difficult for those with joint pain. The knee and thumb joint pain rise when temperatures drop, making it difficult to move around. Inactivity due to low temperatures can lead to further joint damage and inflammation, especially in those with arthritis or other chronic joint conditions.

People with joint pain need to take extra precautions during the colder months. Gentle stretching before going outside and adding a layer of warm clothing can help reduce stiffness and discomfort from cold temperatures. Additionally, staying active is essential for keeping joints healthy; try doing indoor exercises such as yoga or walking on a treadmill instead of outdoor activities that may be too strenuous in cold weather.

Cold & Humidity

When lower temperatures and higher humidity combine, you can experience significant pain in your knee. The cellular structure of the bone and cartilage is influenced by the combination of these two factors. Therefore, as a result, the person will experience a feeling of expansion and contraction, leading to discomfort.

Managing Joint Pains During Winter

As winter weather begins to settle in, joint pains can become more intense. Thankfully, there are ways to manage joint pain during the winter months so you can still enjoy all the season has to offer.

Areas Susceptible to joint pain

Exercise

The muscles that support your knees and hips can be strengthened with 30 minutes of exercise five times a week.

Stretch

Keep your joints limber by stretching gently every day. Simple stretches can improve your joint pains.

Avoid injury

An injured joint has a higher risk of developing arthritis than one that has never been injured. Don't use your back when lifting weights, and always wear protective gear when playing sports.

It is clear that cold weather can have a significant impact on joint health. Colder temperatures can cause the already stiff joints of people with arthritis to become even more painful and uncomfortable. The best way to protect against this is to dress appropriately and stay warm while also engaging in other activities to help alleviate joint pain, such as gentle exercise and stretches. It may also be helpful to speak with your doctor about specific medications or treatments that could help reduce inflammation and discomfort during cold weather months.

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