Winter can be a pain to deal with, but can it cause pain? You may have heard some myths about how cold weather can exacerbate your joint pain. Is there any truth to this? Here, we debunk whether the weather attributes to your pain in addition to other myths related to the chilly weather.
Does Cold weather make Arthritis worse?
Many people whom suffer from arthritis believe that the cold weather worsens their condition and causes their pain to noticeably flare up as the temperatures drop. Some even say that they can predict weather changes, such as rain, due to the pain in their arthritic knee. Does the cold weather/rain directly cause your pain?
Many studies have been conducted in regards to this and the answer is no. The snow, cold and rain do not directly cause your pain. The real cause for your pain, however, is the way your body reacts to these weather changes.
Barometric pressure is one of the contributing atmospheric factors that affect people. Your joints contain sensory nerve endings called baroreceptors. These baroreceptors respond to changes in barometric pressures in the environment, especially if it is low. The drop in barometric pressures, which coincide with colder temperatures, can cause swelling in the joints. Additionally, those that suffer from arthritis have less cushioning around their joints which is why they feel the response from their baroreceptors more.
Cold weather can also trigger pain from joints. The cold narrows the blood vessels and the pain signals traveling from the sympathetic nerves are intensified by the brain due to misbehaving nerves. The increased activation of these nerves can make the person think they are feeling more pain, when really it is just their nerves amplifying the pain signals.
Inactivity can contribute to pain?
It can be argued that cold weather can make you lead a less active lifestyle. The cold temperatures make everyone tend to want to stay in. Believe it or not, this inactivity can actually cause your joints to stiffen up. By being sedentary, your joints become “gelled” from being in the same position for an extended period of time.
How else is pain attributed from bodily responses to environmental changes?
- The amount of fluid within a joint tends to fluctuate with the changes in the environment
- Tissues expand due to the lower air pressure and these expanded tissues can place greater pressure on the nerves that control pain
- Pain receptors are more sensitive in the cold
So to recap, the next time your friends or family say that they can tell when the rain is coming due to the pain in their knee, let them know- their joint pain isn’t flaring up because of the weather, but because of their body’s response to the weather. The weather does contribute to offsetting the pain but it is not the culprit.