Bones in our body helps in maintaining the shape of our body and protects our internal organs. Joints are where two or more bones in our body meet. A joint makes our body flexible. Some joints in our body are immovable, some joints provide little movements, and some joints in our body allow complicated movements.
In winter joint pain becomes a common problem. Joint and muscle pain in winter are frequently seen in elder people, but it can affect any age group. Joint pain hampers our ability to carry out daily activities accurately.
What are the causes of joint pain in winter?
Low temperature can cause pain in joints which sometimes restricted movements. There are many theories about the reasons why cold weather causes joint pain:
- The low temperature makes tension and swelling in tendons, muscles, and cartilages around the joint. This lead to pain in the joint area.
- A person already experiencing arthritis also feels pain flare up during winter. In arthritis cartilages on joints are eroded making nerves exposed. These exposed nerves become very sensitive to the slightest change in pressure. Thus, change in barometric pressure in winter may create pain in joints that are affected by arthritis.
- In winter there is constriction of blood vessels which causes restricted blood flow to the joints. This may also cause pain and inflammation in joints.
- Another reason for joint pain is the inadequate level of vitamin D. In winter, we usually stay indoors with little to no exposure to sunlight. This leads to a decrease in the formation of vitamin D and pain in muscles and joints.
Healthy joints importance
Joint allows us to move effortlessly. Healthy joints are essential for the proper functioning and movement of our body parts freely. Healthy joints allow us to run, walk, dance, participate in sports, and help to do all activities we want to do.
Why common joint diseases shows flare up in winter
Weather changes in barometric pressure, temperature dropping, and damp weather can cause pain to people already suffering from joint diseases. Weather changes can make tendons, muscles, joints, and scar tissues inflamed and swelled which may lead to pain. Following joint disorders can show fare up during cold temperature:
- Rheumatoid arthritis: during cold and rainy seasons people suffering from arthritis may feel an increase in stiffness and pain in joints. Although winter does not cause arthritis worsens physiologically, it simply increases stiffness, swelling, and pain. Pain receptors become more sensitive during the winters which also contribute to an increase in arthritis flare-up. A low level of vitamin D is also raising the risk of arthritis.
- Bursitis: Bursitis occurs mostly at joints that perform frequent repetitive motion and experience continuous pressure. Common areas suffered from bursitis include the knees, elbows, hips, and shoulder. Sometimes the pain of bursitis flares up in cold weather due to a drop in barometric pressure.
- Old injuries and fractures: many times you can feel pain in healed previously damaged and fractured bones. It may be due to that many times, the nerves do not heal properly and there may be still some microscopic damage present. Change in weather puts pressure on these nerves causing discomfort in bones and joints.
- Overweight: gaining weight is common in the winter season. Being overweight puts pressure on joints and causes discomfort in joints.
How to find relief in winters
- Warm and comforting winter clothes according to the temperature. Wearing clothes in layers is best to avoid cold exposure. Always make sure that you should cover your knees, legs, hands, neck, and all arthritis prone areas.
- You should stay active. Although, it’s understandable that people suffering from joint pain feels very stiff and unable to move during winters, light exercise, and joint movement should be done. Indoor exercises are a good option to prevent further cold exposure. Exercising improves muscle stiffness and joint pain.
- Drink plenty of water. Even mild dehydration makes joints’ nerves more sensitive to pain.
- Warm baths of joints ease the pain. Soaking of hands and feet in warm water soothes joint inflammation and pain.
- Keep yourself warm in winter to reduce pain. Hot water bad, crepe bandages, and electric heating pads can use on localized areas to decrease stiffness and pain in cold weather.
- You should take a supplement of vitamin D and other prescribed medicines regularly to keep bay the risk factor for joint pain.
- Omega-3 fatty acid-rich food is beneficial in decreasing joint inflammation. So you should include omega-3 rich food in your diets such as flaxseed, walnuts, avocado, and fish.
- Avoid winter weight gain which put extra pressure on your joints.
By taking these precautions in your lifestyle, you can minimize joint pain and can enjoy winters. If you are experiencing extreme difficulty in your joints immediate consult your doctor.
Dr. (Prof.) B.S. Murthy | Director & Senior Consultant – Orthopaedics, Spine Surgery | Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi