As the temperature begins to cool down, you may begin to notice a change in your joints. Cold weather has been associated with exacerbating joint pains and aches. A study from Tufts University revealed that every 10-degree drop in temperature corresponded with an increase in arthritis pain.
Although research has revealed inconclusive results as to why cold weather might exacerbate joint pain, possible factors include:
- Thickening of Synovial Fluid: Synovial fluid lubricates the joint to reduce friction during movement. Cold temperatures can thicken synovial fluid, contributing to stiffness and reducing the ability of the joint to move freely.
- Vasoconstriction: With cold temperatures, the body tries to divert blood flow to vital organs by constricting the blood vessels in the extremities. Reduced blood flow in the extremities can heighten pain sensitivity.
- Muscle Spasms: Cold temperatures can cause muscles to tighten up, increasing the pressure surrounding joints.
- Physical Inactivity: Generally, individuals are less active during the winter months. Reduced physical activity contributes to joint stiffness.
- Vitamin D Deficiency: More time spent indoors during the winter months contributes to less sunlight exposure and decreased Vitamin D levels. Low Vitamin D levels can increase sensitivity to pain.
How to protect your joints from the cold weather:
- Staying Warm: Relieve joint pain by dressing in layers, applying heating pads, or soaking in warm baths.
- Staying Active: Regular physical activity helps to keep joints flexible, increase blood flow, and build up muscle strength.
- Compression Therapy: Wearing compression gloves or socks helps to encourage additional blood flow and trap heat for warmth.
- Vitamin D: Consider taking a supplement if Vitamin D levels are deficient.