Iowa Specialty Hospital

Why Winter Makes Arthritis Worse

December 15, 2018

There are over 100 diseases that fall under the umbrella of arthritis, and about one in five adults lives with some form of arthritis. Arthritis has no known cause, though there are a few biological and lifestyle factors that can affect your chances of developing the condition, including age, genetics, injuries, and your line of work. 

With arthritis, you may experience symptoms such as: 
•    Swollen, stiff joints
•    Areas around joints that look red or are warm to the touch
•    Tenderness

Whether your symptoms are chronic or come and go, arthritis pain can impact your ability to perform tasks and your overall quality of life. Many people report an increase in the severity of arthritis symptoms with the approach of cool, wet weather. Does winter really make arthritis worse? Iowa Specialty Hospital in Clarion and Belmond, IA is here to take a closer look at the relationship between weather patterns and arthritis symptoms. 

Arthritis, the weather, and you

We’ve all heard claims from friends and family that they can practically predict weather based on increased joint pain—perhaps you’ve made the same claim yourself! Whether you believe there’s truth to it or dismiss it as an old wives’ tale, the theory is not a new one. As it turns out, we can trace this claim back to 400 B.C., when Hippocrates mentioned how wind and rain affect chronic diseases. So, what’s going on here? Does the cold weather truly affect your joints? 

The research is inconclusive, but tends toward the idea that it’s not the weather that aggravates your arthritis symptoms, but rather the changes in barometric pressure that cause those weather conditions in the first place. Barometric pressure, also known as atmospheric pressure, measures the pressure exerted by the weight of the atmosphere. When the atmospheric pressure rises, the weight of the air pushes on the tissues of your body, keeping them firmly in place. A drop in pressure, on the other hand, allows the expansion of tissues around your joints, which can lead to increased pain and inflammation. 

In addition to atmospheric pressure, many people report that temperature and humidity also aggravate arthritis symptoms, with the general consensus being that cold, damp weather is the biggest offender. As we well know, the winter months are most prone to such conditions, which makes the connection between the coldest season and increased arthritis pain completely understandable. 

What you can do for joint pain relief

While you can’t control the weather, there are still plenty of things you can do to prevent or mitigate arthritis pain as the cooler months arrive. The very first thing you’ll want to do is dress warmly. Loose layers work well to trap body heat and keep you warm, which is great for those who experience inflammation and pain with chilly temperatures. Don’t forget other cold weather necessities, such as mittens, hats, scarves, and socks. You may also want to consider quality weatherproof footwear that retains heat and keeps your feet dry. 

In addition to dressing appropriately for the weather, lifestyle changes can also help you manage your symptoms. As temperatures drop, many people begin to exercise less. Changes in physical activity levels can also have a profound effect on arthritis symptoms, and in this case, too little has just as much an impact as too much. 

While you should discuss appropriate exercise regimens with your medical provider, some general ways to work physical activity into your winter schedule include: 

•    Walking indoors within a mall, museum, or other venue
•    Indoor swimming at a local community center or other establishment
•    Aerobic or yoga classes
•    Taking the stairs if possible
•    Stretching and light exercise while watching TV
•    Dancing

So long as you’re moving, you’re doing yourself and your joints a huge favor. 

Your source for compassionate, specialized care

Whenever your arthritis flares up, Iowa Specialty Hospital has your back. We are a collection of medical specialists in Clarion and Belmond, IA who are dedicated to providing superior, compassionate care for your entire body. Our facilities feature state-of-the-art equipment for accurate and efficient diagnosis and treatment of a variety of medical conditions. We have multiple campuses and outreach clinics all across North Central Iowa to ensure you obtain the first-rate medical care you deserve, no matter where you are. 

Contact us for more information. 



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