Is Cold Weather Bad For Osteoarthritis?

Written by - Reviewed by Consumer Health Digest Team

Published: Jan 17, 2018 | Last Updated: Aug 2, 2019

It can be a lot fun during winter; as you move around breathing crisp air, ragging up in very thick scarves and coats and sipping hot chocolate. However, you might get disappointed if you are suffering from osteoarthritis as your osteoarthritis may get even worse at this condition making it difficult for you to enjoy this cold climate.

In fact, according to some sufferers of this condition, cold weather makes osteoarthritis worse. The question that many ask is; is it really true that cold weather can worsen the symptoms of osteoarthritis? And if so, what would be the cause of this problem?

This topic has been widely explored by large numbers of scientists, but we have only received mixed results. According to Dr Michael Vagg, a pain specialist, there are some studies which suggest a relationship between cold and osteoarthritis while others do not. He continues to say that it is hard to tell the exact mechanism behind this principle.

The Pressure Factor

One factor that has been suggested and could be the reason why cold weather worsens symptoms of osteoarthritis is barometric pressure (that force that is exerted by the weight of the atmosphere).

Cold Weather Bad For Osteoarthritis

According to some researchers, a drop in barometric pressure during cold and damper climate could make tissues in joints to swell thus putting more pressure on nerves that are responsible for the control of pain signals.

Dr. Vagg is critical on this perception: ” if you climb higher to the top of a tall mountain, where the barometric pressure is extreme, you can certainly get joint pain, ” most of the times we tend to ignore minor variations that are caused by barometric pressure while at normal altitude (variations which could be similar in scale to the ones that come with changes in weather) which are normally painful.

In fact, you will develop sore joints if you drive to the top of Blue Mountains.”

Misbehaving Nerves

According to Vagg, there is an alternative idea that is backed with more evidence, and it goes that those bodily changes triggered by cooler climate could be the ones that amplify pain signals from joints. He continues to say that most of the sufferers of this condition have joints that are not actually destroyed so extensively.

One potential explanation to this scenario is that they contain misbehaving nervous system; they have a scenario in which their pain signals travel a long nerves right from their joints and they get amplified in the brain by some signals carried on separate nerves known as sympathetic nerves.

The body’s system depends on these sympathetic nerves as part of the mechanism that maintains the internal functioning of the body without the need of us to think about it.

When the climate changes to cold, these nerves makes the blood vessels to constrict in the limbs so as to minimize the loss of heat and as a result to keep the body warm thus protecting other core organs of the body from fleecing.

According to Vagg, an increased activation of this process might have a negative reaction to osteoarthritis sufferers by triggering pain. He thinks that this scenario is difficult to study but this can be simply pointed to the effects caused by barometric pressure right on the lining of the joints.

Just Get Moving

Just get moving
Before you think of moving out to a warmer place, you can consider this first: there are a number of things that happen during this weather. One common scenario for most people during cold weather is winter drop in mood, and this is thought to have a link to increased levels of pain that is felt during cold climate.

During shorter days and cool climates, we might be tempted to remain inactive and immobile; these scenarios can make osteoarthritis more painful. One explanation to this could be the fact that when inactive, the flow of nutrients and oxygen to joints is limited and this can trigger the effects of pain in these joints.

However, this notion is opposed by Dr. Vagg, who thinks that the explanation given to this mechanism is not sufficient to convince us on how reduced flow of oxygen and nutrients to joints can make them stiffer and painful. He suggests that we should be more proactive to the real causes of our painful joints that blame things that could not have anything on our problems.

He emphasizes that we need to look for ways on how we can overcome those obstacles that hinder us from doing exercises be cause with regular exercises, our painful joints will subside. According to Dr. Vagg, all the perception that your painful joints are caused by cold climate could be a lie and well in your mind.

Our brains have evolved to a stage where by they identify patterns that cause more problems to the body. In fact, our brains can predict the trends surrounding our lives and could be making more miserable and as a result they make the body to respond accordingly. This pattern could be true because it has been well documented by scientists.

It means that, we are more inclined to recall those moments of the season when our pain got worse and when it didn’t. Practically, we are supposed to restrict ourselves to those things that we can be able to control by our selves i.e. exercises, diet modifications and medications.

In conclusion, it is very hard for us to draw a line between the link between cold weather and the symptoms of arthritis. Anyway, even if we couldn’t be having any direct relationship between pain and cold weather, there are in fact other secondary factors likely to trigger the pain to get worse. If you happen to have reduced activity or even low mood, try to look for alternatives which can make you become more active during these challenging moments.

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