“I can feel it in my bones,” my grandpa always used to tell me when a storm was brewing. I never really gave much thought to whether or not the correlation between weather and joint pain had any real science to back it up. Not too long ago, I broke (shattered) my right foot and it did seem to feel stiffer when the barometric pressure changed drastically.
The same time I broke my foot, I had also gotten the flu. It was one of the years when the flu was really nasty, so I was having a pretty rough time. I worked primarily from home and my office was upstairs from the kitchen. One particularly depressing day, I made some food and started to hobble my sick self up the stairs, maneuvering food, beverage and crutch to avoid further bone shattering. After much struggle, I got to the top of the stairs, only to drop the food all the way back down to the bottom. My dog walked by, scarfed up the food in one bite, and kept on walking like the remorseless beast he is. Is any of this relevant to joint pain? Not really, but my misery is often others peoples’ entertainment…
If you’ve ever had broken bones or joint pain, you’ve probably experienced or at leastheard that winter weather can cause painful flare-ups. Living in a state like Colorado where the temperature candrop 64 degrees in the span of 24 hours, I can attest that there is some very strong anecdotal evidence to support the claim that weather can cause joint pain (in addition to apocalyptic panic and a mobbish swarming of local grocery stores).
For the curious among us, finding out the science behind what causes joint pain in the winter is important. But as much anecdotal information is out there,very little scientific evidence actually supports this phenomenon. That doesn’t mean it’s not real, it just means most of the science that addresses joint pain has been focused on relieving the pain in general.
It’s hard to completely ignore a claim that’s made by just about every person who suffers from arthritis, broken bones or other joint pain, so let’s humor ourselves and take a look at some of the possible reasons why joints ache in cold weather.
Barometric pressure is the weight of the air in the atmosphere. So it makes sense that when barometric pressure is high, there’s more weight and more pressure on our joint tissue, which mitigates swelling and inflammation. Lower atmospheric pressure (weather-related, or the kind you experience in the cabin of an airplane) can cause swelling. This is the theory behind barometric pressure-related joint pain. In times of low pressure, the tissues have more freedom to swell and expand, which causes pain.
Thinking back to my broken foot—was the flu really that bad that year? Yes it was...but I may have been more of a wimp about it because of the broken foot. Depressed moods and other irritationsdefinitely play a role in how people perceive pain and their general state of well-being. So part of the reason people feel like cold or depressing weather increases their joint pain could be because they’re a lot more focused on the pain than when the weather is nice and sunny.
So right now, there may not be a perfect answer for why joints hurt in cold weather, but it’s okay to rely on logical reasoning and anecdotal information. Because the good news is that there IS some solid science behind relieving joint pain. So whether your symptoms are exacerbated by the weather, activity or just generally having a bad day, let’s look at some ways to relieve winter joint pain year-round.
Whenever you visit your doctor for a checkup, most of the preliminary questions they’ll ask you are related to smoking, drinking and your diet. If you go to your doctor with joint pain and are overweight, the first thing they’ll likely recommend is losing a bit of weight. Even a moderate amount of weight loss can relieve joint pain significantly—each pound you drop is about four pounds less pressure on your knees.
Yeah, you knew this one was coming too. Your doctor will definitely bring up exercise at your next checkup regardless of your health. While some kinds of joint pain can limit mobility and should be avoided, low-impact exercise (swimming, etc) can help loosen you up and keep you flexible. And of course, more movement and exercise can help you lose weight too.
Easier said than done, I know. It’s not so easy to relax when you’re in pain, which causes more stress, which causes more pain. It’s a vicious cycle. Winter time can make it especially hard to relax when you have to deal with snow, cold, icy roads, traffic, holiday shoppers and holiday music that starts WAY too early in the season.
Getting a massage, meditating, going in for some acupuncture, or really finding any other way to relax is an important part of pain relief. Stress is directly related to pain and disease, so finding your center and zenning out for a bit each day is one of the best ways to ease up the burden on your joints. Meditation in particular can help you understand how to focus less on pain and observe your body as a whole entity again.
Certain herbs that have been used for centuries for pain continue to be studied from a scientific perspective. In particular,Boswellia andturmeric (particularly turmeric with theC3 curcumin extract) have been studied for their anti-inflammatory properties, and the evidence points strongly towards their role as an effective mitigator of joint pain.
Other ingredients that are found in professional-grade supplements, like GreenGrown Glucosamine, Mythocondro Chondroitin, OptiMSM and FruiteX-B Calcium Fructoborate also have solid scientific backing in relation to easing joint and muscle pain. Incorporating joint health supplements into your daily routine is a safe, all-natural and effective way to ease pain.
While there’s little scientific evidence to definitively prove why joints ache in cold weather, we do know that there are science-backed ways to relieve joint pain year-round. You might feel a storm coming “in your bones” like so many other people, myself included. And anyone who tries to correct you obviously hasn’t felt that peculiar vibration in the joints when the barometric pressure changes.You might not live in a place with such dramatic pressure drops, but any changes in weather can alter your perception of things. But regardless of when or why you’re experiencing joint pain, there are several all-natural ways to help.
Seth Garland - Content Writer, Physician's Choice