I lived on the east coast for roughly four years but being a true Californian whenever the temperature starts to drop into the 60s, I’m cold! I have to say that one of the most common questions I get when the temperature drops is: “Why do my joints hurt more when it gets cold?”
I thought I would delve into the research a little to see if I could find a great answer for my patients! The research is rather inconclusive about a definite answer as to why the cold seems to affect joints (particularly arthritic joints) but nonetheless, clinically, many physical therapists will tell you that they hear this question all the time so there must be something to it. While there isn’t a definite answer, there are some theories!
When it gets cold outside, do you find that you’re spending less time moving around or making trips outdoors? This simple lifestyle change of being a little more sedentary during the cold weather than your normal can have an impact on the pain you’re experiencing! If you’re sitting and staying warm then you aren’t moving as much and that can cause your joints to become stiff. It’s particularly important to make sure to keep moving around even when it’s cold because that’s how our joints are nourished!
In addition to lifestyle changes with the weather, there are changes in barometric pressure! Barometric pressure is the amount of pressure from the atmosphere that is constantly around us. If there is a drop in barometric pressure, essentially there is less pressure on us/our joints which can allow for an increase in tissue expansion and swelling! Even if it’s not a very significant increase in swelling it’s still an increase which creates more pressure and in turn pain.
I want you to know you are not alone if you feel like the cold/rainy weather affects your joints! While the research may be conflicted, clinically I have seen many patients have increased pain with the cold weather. So, even if it’s cold outside try to get up and move around (being safe of course)! If there’s a change in pressure, know that you’re not alone in thinking your joints are hurting a little more that day.