You may have heard this before – cold weather causes joint pain. The complaint can be heard commonly among those with joint or back pain.
So is it true?
Research to backing it is limited but generally it is believed to be true and there is a name – Cold Allodynia. To be more specific the cold itself may not cause pain, rather the way the body responds to it. Basically cold weather can cause tissues to shrink and place strain on nerve endings. Cold weather also seems to affect the nerves themselves by making them more sensitive.
Interestingly enough a pain can also result due to changes in atmospheric pressure. Atmospheric pressure affects joints, and it can also cause migraines or headaches in those who are sensitive. Atmospheric pressure changes with weather patterns and can push against the body not allowing joints to move as freely. The next time your grandma says her hip hurts and it will rain, she could very well be right.
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So if weather patterns can place stress on our joints due to atmospheric pressure changes, and cold increases our sensitivity, what do those living in colder climates do? The obvious answer is move somewhere with better weather, right? Well this is not necessarily a good idea. Robert Newlin Jamison, PhD, a professor at Harvard Medical School has researched the effects of weather on pain and has noticed that those living in better climates may become accustomed to their surroundings and have an increased sensitivity to weather changes. He believes that “as mammals, we kind of adjust to our climate.”
So What About My Cold Weather Joint Pain?
The best bet is to prepare yourself when you know weather is going to change.
Here are a few tips to do so:
- If you are sensitive to weather changes, ask your doctor if it is ok to up medications temporarily.
- Stay Warm – Dress in layers, cover as much as possible, and warm up the car before driving it.
- Warm up indoors before heading outside by stretching and moving joints that normally get affected.
- Use heating pads or creams on affected joints before moving.
- Realize that the pain is temporary. Once weather stabilizes, your pain should go away.
- Take Omega 3 fatty acids or vitamin C. They may help with joint pain. (Note: Ask your doctor before trying out)