Author: Matthew Craig, Principal Physiotherapist/Founding Director bounceREHAB.
Every year I hear my patients report that changes in the weather, especially the falling temperatures of winter (and sometimes rain) are often associated with stiffness, aches and pains. It is unclear why some people react to weather changes and others do not, but you can take some steps to be more comfortable and reduce your risk when the weather turns cold. Here is a few basic but effective steps that you could take.
Why does the cold cause pain and stiffness?
There is no one explanation or strong medical evidence for why dropping temperatures affect your joints. One theory relates to drops in barometric pressure, which cause tendons, muscles and the surrounding tissues to expand. Because of the confined space within the body, this can cause pain, especially in joints affected by arthritis.
Are some people more susceptible than others?
Everyone’s body reacts to fluctuating barometric pressure, but people with arthritis and those with chronic pain are more vulnerable to feeling discomfort. Also, bad weather can affect people’s moods; if you are sad or depressed, the perception of pain can be magnified.
When should I consult a physio?
If you experience any unusual or new symptoms with your joints — such as persistent swelling, redness, difficulty putting pressure on, or using, the joint — it’s a good idea to consult your physio or physician. If you have consistent or severe pain that becomes disabling, seek physiotherapy care right away. Talk to our physiotherapy team or read this Medicare blog, you may be eligible for Medicare rebates to attend physiotherapy treatment for your aches and pains.
Reduce your risk for joint pain
Ease the shock of cold weather on your body by dressing in layers to stay warm.
Build up muscle and bone strength through exercise. This reduces pressure on your joints, so they are less prone to injury. Our Physio team recommends that you try our Pilates Reformer Classes or 1-1 with supervision!
Apply heating pads to painful areas. Heat helps relax your muscles. Check out our Infinity Heat Pack range online
Get up, walk around and be active indoors and outdoors. Stretch before going outside to loosen stiff joints. Staying active in the winter keeps your muscles and joints healthy.
Get a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy diet and keep a positive outlook.
Medicare Blog (M.Craig 2020)
Savage, E. M., McCormick, D., McDonald, S., Moore, O., Stevenson, M., & Cairns, A. P. (2015). Does rheumatoid arthritis disease activity correlate with weather conditions?. Rheumatology international, 35(5), 887–890. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00296-014-3161-5
Mori, H., Sawada, T., Nishiyama, S., Shimada, K., Tahara, K., Hayashi, H., Kato, E., Tago, M., Matsui, T., & Tohma, S. (2019). Influence of seasonal changes on disease activity and distribution of affected joints in rheumatoid arthritis. BMC musculoskeletal disorders, 20(1), 30.