Joint pain - why do our joints seem to hurt more during the winter?

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Joint Pain

For those that experience joint pain, we often feel that our symptoms are worse when the weather becomes colder, right? This is a phenomenon which has been extensively researched, however there is little consensus in the evidence linking colder weather to joint pain. So why is it worse in cold weather?

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This does not necessarily mean that it is not true, but just that there isn’t enough research (yet) to link the two. Ultimately, when we suffer from joint pain, we are aware from our own experiences what affects our pain and what tends to trigger it.

Why do we feel more pain in the winter?

Although we may not blame cold weather altogether, for many of us, the weather plays a significant role in how much or how little exercise we get.

It has been well proven that appropriate exercise can improve levels of joint pain and everyday function for those with osteoarthritis. With less exercise we become stiffer and weaker.  One of the advantages of seeing a Physiotherapist is that we will be able to discuss the individual specifics of our pain and what aggravates or eases it and put a plan in place to help alleviate this.

Why causes joint pain?

It is also important to understand what causes joint pain; osteoarthritis is the most common cause of joint pain for people to experience. Osteoarthritis is due to a change and ultimately degeneration of the cartilage which surrounds the bones that form a joint (such as the thigh bone, shin bone and knee cap coming together to form the knee joint).

As osteoarthritis progresses, the cartilage can become worn away which can then lead to damage throughout the entirety of the joint. The pain that we feel in our joints can come from multiple sources, such as pain from the joint itself, surrounding muscles and ligaments, inflammation and swelling. A Physiotherapist will be able to help distinguish why the joint may be becoming more painful at different times and give specific treatments for the condition.

How can Physio help?

A Physiotherapist will be able to help plan the ideal exercises for us that can be performed indoors, giving useful tips about staying active in the cold, winter months. Joint pain can be a problem at any time of the year, but when we notice it more in winter then it is always advisable to first think about any changes in our activity at this time. Are we doing anything different to what we would normally be doing if it was warm?

If you would like any advice or to just talk to us, you can use our FREE Ask A Physio service online and message the experts themselves!


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