When it’s getting close to that time of year — when rain or snow begins to fall and the temperature drops — you start to dread the aches and pains that always seem to come with the cold. And so, you ask: Why do my bones ache when it rains? Why does bad weather affect joints?
If you’re someone who suffers from arthritis or joint pain, or if you sustained injuries through the years from playing sports, you’re right to be concerned. Certain types of pain seem to come back when the weather changes, even after the tissue has healed — like that ankle sprain or knee injury you had some time ago.
So, if weather-related or seasonal pain afflicts you, this post is for you.
How weather affects joint pain
Weather affects joint pain in a variety of different ways. Joints are affected by barometric or air pressure. However, humidity and temperature also play a role. This makes it difficult for scientists to define what exactly causes some people to experience more pain when it’s cold, wet, or humid.
Over the years, scientists have conducted various research on the connection between joint pain and the weather, but no one has been able to definitively establish a link.
Even so, there are a few theories about the connection. One possibility is that patients suffering from joint pain, particularly arthritis, are more sensitive to variations in barometric pressure. How? It’s possible that when the cartilage that cushions the bones inside a joint has worn away, the nerves in the exposed bones detect changes in pressure.
Another thing you might have noticed is that when the temperature drops, your ligaments and tendons tighten. People with rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis will feel instant discomfort with such temperature changes.
Then there’s also the resulting change in blood pressure, which can make the pain worse. Too much blood going to an arthritic section of your body might cause sudden pain as you adjust to temperature fluctuations, whereas inadequate blood flow can result in a dull ache that lasts longer.
The problem isn’t just with the bones and ligaments.
When the temperature changes, a previously injured muscle may ache. Soft tissue (muscle) expands and contracts with the weather, just like blood vessels. Muscles naturally expand and contract daily. When you raise your foot, your calf contracts, and when you sit down, your thighs expand. The expansion and contraction produced by changes in weather, on the other hand, might irritate the nerves. Under normal conditions, this is fine, but areas of previous injury may be sensitive.
Ways to ease weather-related joint pain
You can treat joint discomfort due to weather changes in a variety of ways at home.
- Keep yourself warm when it gets colder. You can take warm showers or baths, dress in layers throughout the day, use an electric blanket at night, or turn up the heat in your home.
- Take a paraffin bath. For this, you’ll need to use a little paraffin wax melting machine. Dip your hands and feet in the wax, then wait for it to set on your skin. The heat absorbed by your body may help to relieve aching joints. Another option is to use a heating pad, especially for sensitive or sore spots.
- Take pain medication. Ask your doctor whether you can take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds (NSAIDs).
- Stay active and maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts stress on the body, including your joints. If you’re not exercising, start with yoga or swimming, as these are gentle on the joints. With regular exercise, you can develop muscle and bone strength. If you plan to exercise outside, warm up with some simple stretches first.
Get help at Carolinas Pain Center
Although the link between joint pain and weather changes is not yet fully understood, it appears that changes in temperature, humidity, and air pressure could worsen conditions like arthritis and joint pain. Fortunately, there are home remedies you can try to alleviate the aches and pains you’re feeling.
However, if your pain persists or none of the suggested treatments work, it’s advisable to set up an appointment with a pain specialist at Carolinas Pain Center.
Get in touch today!