Hello, everyone! This is Dr. Bob Salamon with Lowcountry Chiropractic. As always, I hope you’re doing well and staying healthy! In my last blog, we discussed subluxations, which is a term referring to the misalignment of the vertebrae that can irritate nerves and cause all sorts of health issues, including pain. Today, we’ll be talking about the correlation between joint pain and the weather. You may have heard older people in your life talk about how their bones seem to predict the weather, but is there any truth to that? Research suggests that the aches and pains you may feel when it rains isn’t just a coincidence. If you are interested in learning more about how the weather can affect joint pain, you’re in the right place. Let’s begin.
Have you ever noticed that your joint pain worsens when it’s cold or raining? If so, you are certainly not alone! Many people report worsening joint pain in the colder months, or on rainy days. People with conditions that cause chronic joint pain, such as arthritis, often feel more pain during rainy, cold weather than in warm and dry weather. Arthritis is the swelling or tenderness of one or more joints. Pain and stiffness of the joints due to arthritis can worsen with age. There are different types of arthritis, with the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. People with musculoskeletal issues may also experience more pain due to changes in temperature. But why? The truth is that scientists don’t agree on why exactly this can occur, but there are a few different theories. Barometric pressure, precipitation, and humidity all seem to play a role in joint pain, with barometric pressure being the worst of the three.
Barometric pressure is the measurement of air pressure in the atmosphere, which presses on the Earth and on us. Everyone’s body reacts to barometric pressure, but those with arthritis or conditions that cause chronic pain are more vulnerable to discomfort. As bad weather approaches, the pressure decreases and air presses less on our bodies. This, in turn, can allow tendons, muscles, and surrounding tissues in our bodies to swell or expand slightly and irritate the joints. Another theory suggests that when the cartilage that cushions the joints is worn away, nerves in the exposed bones may be more sensitive to the change in air pressure. A 2007 study with 200 participants concluded that changes in barometric pressure and ambient temperature are associated with osteoarthritis knee pain severity. It found that each 10-degree temperature drop was linked to an increase in pain.
Precipitation can also cause an increase in joint pain. There are different forms of precipitation such as rain, snow, and ice. Rainy days typically cause people to move around less than they normally would, which can contribute to stiffness due to inactive joints. When the weather is gloomy, it can also have an effect on our overall mood. If you are feeling a little down, it can magnify your perception of pain.
While many people report an increase in joint pain during cold months and rainy days, humidity can also play a role. Humidity is the concentration of water vapor present in the air. Some people feel increased arthritis pain due to humidity. As humidity rises and barometric pressure drops, the level of fluid in our joints can change, leading to stiffness or pain. However, the report of increased joint pain during the summer months is less than winter months. An Australian study conducted in 1997 found that decreased temperature was associated with both increased pain and increased rigidity and higher humidity was associated with increased pain and rigidity for arthritis sufferers.
Although the science linking weather and joint pain isn’t perfectly clear, you are aware of what your body is feeling, and that is valid. You can’t control the weather, but luckily, there are some things you can do to help ease joint pain, especially when it is worsened due to the weather.
Staying active is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, whether or not you have arthritis or another condition that causes chronic joint pain. Movement can be difficult and painful when you have joint pain, but it is essential. Stretching regularly can help improve and maintain mobility and promote joint health. Exercise that is gentle on the joints, such as yoga or swimming, can be especially beneficial. In fact, water exercises are great for loosening stiff muscles and strengthening joints. Working out in a pool can build muscle strength and ease discomfort. Other lower impact exercises are walking and bicycling. If you already have joint pain, avoid quick and repetitive movements. If you are sitting for a prolonged period, make sure you get up and stretch or walk around often to avoid stiffening of the joints.
Stick to a Healthy Diet
While this is also important regardless of whether or not you have chronic joint pain, a proper diet can help you maintain a healthy weight. Additional weight can increase the amount of pressure placed on your joints, leading to increased pain. Weight commonly causes strain on the hips, knees, and back. In addition, eliminating refined sugars from your diet will decrease inflammation in the joints and reduce pain. Consulting your doctor or chiropractor about your dietary needs is a great first step. Adding calcium-rich foods to your diet, such as dairy products and green leafy vegetables, can support healthy bones. Calcium isn’t the only nutrient needed for strong bones, though– Check out my tips on eating for a healthy spine.
Keep Yourself Warm
When the temperature drops, make sure to stay warm, even when at home. Turn up the heat in your house and consider taking a warm shower or bath to stay warm and relax your muscles and joints. Wrap yourself up in blankets or use an electric blanket, and make yourself a warm beverage, such as a cup of tea. When going outside, dressing in layers, including gloves and socks, can make a great difference when it comes to achy joints. It can ease the shock of cold weather on your body.
Avoiding unnecessary strain on your joints can help your overall joint health. If there are heavy boxes or other items that need to be moved, consider asking someone else to do it– Your joints will thank you later. If carrying shopping bags, try hanging them on your arms rather than your hands and wrists. This lets your bigger muscles and joints support the weight. If straining does occur, you can use a heating pad on the area to soothe any pain or discomfort. A combination of heat and cold treatment may help.
Consider Chiropractic Care
There are anti-inflammatory medications that may help relieve joint pain, but if you are looking for a non-medicinal treatment, chiropractic care may be for you. A chiropractor may be able to address the cause of your joint pain and tailor a treatment plan according to your needs. Typically, a chiropractor will order diagnostic imaging such as X-rays to assess your needs. They may recommend physical therapy in addition to chiropractic treatment. Sometimes, simply manipulating the soft tissue can relieve tenderness. Slowly stretching the joints through gentle exercises can improve mobility and increase range of motion. Chiropractic care is one of the safest ways and non-invasive ways to treat joint pain. Some benefits of chiropractic care for arthritis include decreased inflammation, increased activity and lifestyle, and reduced pain and discomfort. Chiropractic is also helpful for other conditions that may cause joint pain, such as fibromyalgia. Since chiropractors are trained to discuss healthy lifestyle practices, they may also teach you easy exercises that can be done at home to ease pressure on your joints.
As you can see, changes in weather can increase pain in the joints, particularly in those with conditions such as arthritis. Although there is no cure for conditions such as arthritis, chiropractic care can help manage symptoms. You may find that a combination of treatments works best for you. If you think you or a loved one may benefit from chiropractic care, consider reaching out to Lowcountry Chiropractic. Send us an email or give us a call and we’ll assess the situation and develop a long-term treatment plan to address your needs. We want to help you live a pain-free life– It’s what you deserve. As always, this is Dr. Bob and I have your back covered!
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