If it wasn’t enough to contend with Coronavirus this winter, anyone suffering from arthritis knows that the colder months can worsen joint pain and stiffness. There have been a number of studies that have tried to explain why some people seem to suffer more through the winter.
Arthritis and cold weather
One explanation is that a drop in barometric pressure which occurs when temperatures change can cause the expansion and contraction of the tendons, muscles and bones, resulting in increased pain in our joints. Scar tissue can also react in the same way so anyone who has damaged their knees or hips might suffer when it’s cold.
It’s also thought that a change in temperature could increase the thickness of the synovial fluid that lines our joints. Synovial fluid acts as the body’s shock absorber, but this thickening could make the joints stiffer.
Inflammation is also a factor as genes that promote inflammation proliferate in winter. Another argument is that our pain receptors are more sensitive during cold weather. Researchers at Manchester University recently used a smartphone app to track how people responded to different weather fronts and found that arthritis sufferers are 20% more likely to experience pain on days that are windy.
Separate to a physical link between winter and arthritis, it may also be that when it is colder, we are less likely to be active and therefore experience more stiffness and, as a result, increased pain. Less daylight hours and poor weather can make us more prone to anxiety and lower mood levels and less able to cope with joint-related pain.
Tips on managing joint pain during winter
- Keep your joints warm by wearing thermals or layers of clothing
- Taking a warm bath or shower, hot water bottles or electric blankets could help ease pain and stiffness
- Getting plenty of sleep although joint pain often can affect sleep patterns and you should speak to your GP if this is the case
- Stay as active as you can as it can help alleviate pain and improve your circulation and also helps to keep excess weight off your affected joints
If your pain continues to worsen or is not alleviated by any of the measures you adopt, arranging a consultation with an orthopaedic consultant to discuss your treatment options, both non-operative and surgical, is advisable. Call 0808 163 1268 to arrange your consultation with Mr Shah Punwar.