Does Cold Weather Really Affect Arthritis?

Knoxville (WVLT) - Do you have an older relative who claims to know when we're about to experience a temperature change or when a storm is coming, because their hip or knee is "acting up?"

I think we all have one!

But is there any medical evidence to support such a link?

Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard finds out if there's really a connection between the weather and the worsening of arthritis.

Overall, reports of pain do go up during colder times of year.

But researchers say it's a myth that cold weather actually causes arthritis.

While it's been the subject of some studies, there's little evidence that cold weather causes arthritis or affects the intensity of the disease.

So how did grandma Millie or uncle need always seem to know when bad weather would strike?

Orthopaedic Surgeon Doctor Hal Cates says the theory is, ahead of a weather front, a temperature change causes a change in barometric pressure, which affects the fluid inside your bones.

"It's thought that the fluid inside the knee joints responds to that change in pressure by getting more distended, and that swelling of the joint makes it hurt more. So, it is pretty common to know that a cold front is coming in."

People who complain of joint pain probably have some kind of arthritis.

There are many kinds of the disease, but all affect the joints with varying degrees of pain, swelling and stiffness.

Doctor Cates says to understand, just think of starting up your car on a really cold day.

"Like your car, if you park it outside, when you first move it, you know it doesn't move as well, then you hear some noises, then as it limbers up and warms up, so to speak, those mechanical parts move better, our joints kind of do the same thing."

In addition, during severe cold weather, the body may circulate less blood to the hands and feet as a way of conserving warm blood cells near the heart and that can make the joints stiffen.

Also, people often exercise less in the winter, which could make already stiff joints feel worse.

Stopping short of heading south for the winter, arthritis sufferers may try medications, creams and salves to alleviate some of their pain.

Keep in mind, mental attitude has a lot to do with the perception of pain.

Most people get a little depressed during the winter months.

And during these times, everything has a way of feeling worse, including medical conditions.

Exercise may help improve both the mental and physical state.

Particularly swimming, it's easy on joints and also can be a relaxing form of exercise.


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