It’s so cold outside and my muscles and joints ache!


Do you find that your muscles and joints ache more during the cold months? Do you find that your arthritis “acts up” during cold or rainy days? This article will explore how cold and rainy weather may affect your muscles and joints.

Does Cold Weather Increase Muscle and Joint Pain?

Despite a lot of “anecdotal” stories of experiencing an increase in muscle and joint pain during cold weather, the scientific research has not found evidence to prove this. However, it seems that patients with rheumatoid arthritis and degenerative disc and joint disease report an increase in joint pain during the cold months of the year. Some studies have suggested that:

  1. In cold weather, we are less active and this can cause muscle and joint stiffness and pain.
  2. In cold weather, people tend to wear heavier items of clothing and hold their bodies tight to stay warm. The heavy coats can put added stress and pressure on the shoulders and neck, resulting in muscle and joint pain. In addition, holding the body in a tight position, for a long period of time, can also lead to tight muscles and joints.
  3. Cold temperatures may reduce the blood flow to the muscles, leading to stiffness in the shoulders, arms, hips, knees, and legs.
  4. Damaged tissues may become sensitive to cold weather because of scar tissue and inflammation.
  5. Cold temperatures may affect the circulation in the body, and this can result in increased nerve sensitivity and reduced flow of joint fluid, leading to pain.

Does Rainy Weather Affect Your Arthritic Joints?

People often comment that they know when it is going to rain based on how their arthritic joints feel. Similar to cold weather, researches have failed to discover the exact mechanism behind rainy or damp weather and increased muscle and joint pain. The Barometric pressure (pressure in the Earth’s atmosphere) drops before cold weather starts or before a storm. Some researchers believe that changes in the pressure or a drop in pressure causes the joints and tissues to expand and then contract, which in turn, causes pressure on sensitive joints and leads to pain. In addition, it is thought that the joints that have worn out cartilage are more sensitive to pressure changes.

Keeping Muscles And Joints Healthy On Cold Or Rainy Days:

Before treatment and rehabilitation can begin, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis. In addition to a physical examination and a thorough understanding of your symptoms, you may be referred for additional tests such as CT scans or MRI studies. Chiropractors specialize in diagnosing, treating, and rehabilitating injuries of the spine, muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, and nerves.  A correct diagnosis is important to identify any arthritic or other conditions affecting your joints, and to rule out more serious conditions that may be causing your symptoms. Tips to consider during cold and rainy days include:

  • Stay active! If you are unable to enjoy activities outdoors, then modify your exercise routine and perform it in your home. Keeping your joints “warmed-up” may help reduce the muscle and joint pain.
  • Dress appropriately. Wear warm clothing during cold days, keeping the arthritic joints well protected. Dress in layers so that when you are indoors you can remove heavy coats and outerwear.
  • Chiropractic treatments help to improve flexibility, balance, and strength of the muscles and joints of the body. Laser therapy may help reduce the inflammation and pain.
  • Physiotherapy, massage therapy, and acupuncture may aid in pain relief and speed up the healing process. Modalities such as electrical stimulation and ultrasound can also be beneficial.
  • Performing specific stretches and exercises is important and my help to reduce the pain you experience during cold or damp weather.

 

Dr. Virginia Nsitem is a chiropractor specializing in laser therapy for spine, muscle, joint, and nerve injuries, and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Chiropractic Sports Sciences in Canada. She may be reached at (905) 275-4993, or by email at totalhealth@bellnet.ca

Stop the Pain … Before the Pain Stops You!