shutterstock_530437045_k6KGh16.jpeg (shutterstock_530437045.webp)Arthritis is one of the most common sources of joint pain in the world -- in fact, the CDC estimates that more than 54 million people(opens in a new tab) live with arthritis in the United States alone. If you’re one of these people, you may experience a sense of dread this time of year, when the temperatures drop and your symptoms seem to worsen. But is this perceived increase in joint pain an anecdotal coincidence, or does cold weather truly have an effect on a person’s joints?

As one of the top orthopedic specialists in Georgia, Dr. Trevor Turner understands how severe, chronic joint pain can affect your overall quality of life. We’d like to investigate the various theories behind the idea that cold weather worsens the symptoms of arthritis:

Idea #1: Cold Weather Stiffens the Joints

Feeling an increased amount of stiffness and a decreased amount of mobility in your joints during periods of cold weather is quite common, which leads many researchers to believe that there is a direct correlation between a drop in temperature and a reduction in your joints’ flexibility. The broad effects of lower temperatures on your body are well documented, after all -- your tissues tighten and tense, conserving energy in response to the cold. If your joints are reacting in a similar way, this tension could be decreasing your mobility, causing you pain, and exacerbating the symptoms of your arthritis during cold weather months.

Idea #2: Cold Weather Thickens Your Joint Fluid

Every joint in your body -- shoulders, hips, knees, hands, and feet -- contain fluid. This substance, known as “synovial fluid(opens in a new tab),” is designed to lubricate the area of the joint so it can flex and swivel smoothly. While synovial fluid is already fairly thick, some studies suggest that low temperatures cause it to thicken even more. When it becomes too viscous, it may be compromised in its ability to flow through your joints, causing stiffness in the area. This is considered especially possible for those who have knee arthritis -- in the knees, synovial fluid is essential for absorbing shock, and when it is affected by temperature and other factors, it can have a direct influence on any pain or loss of mobility you may feel.

Idea #3: Barometric Pressure Expands Your Tissues

Many people who struggle with worsening symptoms in the cold or rain claim that their affected area can “predict the weather,” becoming more painful or less mobile when rain or snow is on the way. While it may seem a bit odd, researchers who have investigated this phenomenon have found that it may have some merit: when the weather is about to change, barometric pressure(opens in a new tab) (air pressure) drops significantly, which decreases the amount of pressure exerted on your body by the environment around you. This leaves room for your tissues to expand, which may place additional pressure on the joints and cause increased pain in those with arthritis.

Idea #4: Your Joint Pain May Be Psychological

It’s never a doctor’s job to invalidate a patient’s pain or claim that you’re making up your symptoms, so when we say there may be a psychological aspect(opens in a new tab) to an increase in joint pain during cold weather, rest assured that we’re not doing either of those things. The fact is, a certain amount of your pain response does occur in the brain and can be affected by external factors such as your comfort level in a certain type of weather. You may be feeling the same amount of pain on a warm, sunny day, but the comfort and elevated mood you’re experiencing may make that pain less noticeable. On the other hand, if the weather around you is cold and miserable, you’re probably more likely to focus on your joint pain.

Regardless of which -- if any -- of these theories is correct, if you’re struggling with arthritis or other forms of joint pain, you deserve effective, long-term winter joint pain relief. Dr. Trevor Turner proudly provides a comprehensive plan for joint pain, including a wide range of other minimally-invasive solutions to help you feel your best.

If you’re ready to enjoy the season pain-free, don’t hesitate to reach out to Dr. Turner and get started on your road to recovery!