For those living with joint pain, the cold weather is more than just a little uncomfortable. Many patients report that their pain worsens during the colder months. This is especially true for those with back, hip, and knee pain.
So why does the colder weather lead to increased joint pain? Here, we’ll look at some of the science behind cold weather and joint pain and the treatment options available.
Does cold weather directly make joint pain worse?
Although the evidence does suggest joint pain worsens during cold weather, it isn’t thought to be directly linked. That is, the cold itself doesn’t increase pain. It is highly unusual for the joints to be directly impacted by the cold. This is because of their depth and the warmth created from muscle activity. The only parts of the body that are known to suffer injury directly from the cold are the nose, fingers, and toes.
Temperature changes within the body’s tissue have been monitored through several studies. In 2015, one study showed that holding ice onto the skin for a prolonged period of time did not significantly alter the temperature of the tissue.
There is also no evidence to suggest that the colder temperatures worsen the pain. In fact, global studies have shown that those in warmer countries such as Australia, experience worse pain than those in colder countries. So, the cold weather itself isn’t the reason patients experience worse joint pain.
What’s the real reason your joint pain feels worse in the cold?
While the cold weather may not directly cause joint pain to worsen, it can have an indirect impact. There are several things that could cause your pain to get worse in winter including:
- Lack of mobility
- Low mood
- Increased risk of slips and falls
When it is colder, we naturally don’t want to move around as much. Instead, we stay indoors trying to keep warm. This means we aren’t getting as much physical activity as we do in the summer months. Exercise is well known to ease joint pain, so a lack of it in winter can contribute to increased pain levels.
Our mood is something else that can impact pain. In the winter months, the darker, colder weather can cause us to feel low. Some people also suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), known to trigger increased levels of joint pain.
Finally, in the cold, there is a greater risk of slips and falls. Suffering a direct impact on the joints can trigger the pain to worsen.
How to treat cold-related joint pain
There are several ways you can reduce cold-related joint pain. If the pain is severe, steroid injections into the joint is an effective option.
Getting some exercise might go a long way to help ease your pain. If the cold puts you off going outside for a stroll, then consider some gentle stretching, Pilates or yoga?
You may also find it useful to create coping strategies for both a low mood and pain management. Dr Ivanova-Stoilova can teach you how to manage stress-related pain that might be linked to seasonal changes.
So, the cold isn’t directly responsible for worsening joint pain in winter. However, it does have an indirect impact. If you are struggling with worsening joint pain, book a consultation with pain expert Dr Ivanova-Stoilova today.