It’s not uncommon to have joint pain when it’s cold, and there are many potential causes. Staying warm, bundling up when you venture outside, and keeping active are a few tips for easing cold-related joint pain.

Have you ever noticed that your joints become stiffer and more painful as the temperature drops? If you have, you’re not alone.

There’s no doubt that changes in weather can have an effect on people with joint conditions like arthritis. In fact, a 2014 study found that 67.2% of people with osteoarthritis felt that weather affected their joint pain.

What exactly is the connection between cold weather and joint pain? Read on to explore the potential answers to this question.

The exact reason why your joints hurt when it’s cold isn’t known. In fact, there may be multiple factors at play.

Physical effects of cold on your body

Your blood vessels tighten up, or constrict, when you’re exposed to cold temperatures. This helps to conserve heat at the core of your body.

However, it also has the effect of reducing blood flow to your extremities. This may lead to stiffness and pain in these locations, which are commonly affected by different types of arthritis.

Additionally, cold weather can increase the viscosity, or thickness, of synovial fluid in your joints. Synovial fluid serves as a lubricant for your joints. When it becomes thicker, joint tissues may rub against each other more, leading to pain.

Effects of cold on your mood

The effects of weather on mood can also factor in. Some studies have associated colder weather with lower mood.

Further, emotional factors like depression or anxiety may boost pain perception. So if you’re feeling down when it’s chilly outside, you may also feel as if your joints are achier.

Effects of cold on physical activity

Lower physical activity may also contribute. It’s known that physical activity can reduce arthritis pain and improve function. However, decreased physical activity, such as when it’s cold and gloomy outside, may lead to more pain or stiffness.

A 2022 study found that individuals with osteoarthritis were less likely to use physical therapy resources when it was cold out.

This may not only be due to the effects of cold on physical symptoms but could also result from changes in mood, such as being less willing to go out. Decreased accessibility to healthcare due to poor weather may also play a role.

Other weather-related factors influence joint pain

In addition to cold temperatures, other weather-related factors can also contribute to joint pain. This includes humidity and changes in barometric pressure.

Specifically, rises in humidity and barometric pressure have been associated with increased osteoarthritis pain. Further, some research has found that the effect of humidity on joint pain increases when the weather is cold.

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If you find that your joints are achy and stiff during cold weather, try the following to help find relief:

  • Bundle up: If your joint pain flares when it’s cold, take steps to keep yourself warm, and dress in warm layers when the temperature drops. Be sure to wear a warm coat with gloves, a hat, and a scarf when going out into cold weather.
  • Keep moving: Being active can help reduce joint pain and stiffness. Even though it’s tempting to curl up in bed on a chilly day, try not to sit in one place too long. Exercise and stretching can help keep your joints from becoming too stiff.
  • Harness heat: Heat can help ease joint pain and stiffness. If the cold has made your joints achy and stiff, consider soaking in a warm bath or adding heating pads under the covers as you sleep.
  • Eat a balanced diet: A balanced diet is vital for your overall health. If you have arthritis, consider increasing your intake of anti-inflammatory foods, which may help with pain.
  • Stay hydrated: Make sure you’re drinking enough fluids throughout the day. Some research suggests that dehydration can increase pain perception.
  • Use over-the-counter medications: Over-the-counter (OTC) medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or acetaminophen can help to relieve joint pain.
  • Be prepared: Be sure to regularly check the weather forecast so that you can take steps to prepare for any upcoming cold weather.

What are the best vitamins or supplements for joint pain?

It’s possible that some vitamins and supplements may help to improve joint pain. Some examples of vitamins or supplements research has found may be helpful for reducing joint pain include:

However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health notes that research into many supplements for arthritis is limited. Additionally, results from studies can be conflicting.

If you do choose to start using vitamins or supplements to help with joint pain, be sure to talk with your doctor first. They can let you know if the vitamins or supplements you’re considering have any side effects or potential drug interactions to be aware of.

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While arthritis is generally more common in older adults, joints can start hurting at any age. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that the majority of adults with arthritis (52%) are between the ages of 18 and 64 years.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis, affecting over 32.5 million adults in the United States. It happens due to wear and tear on your joints that occurs over time.

Because you accumulate more wear and tear on your joints as you age, most osteoarthritis symptoms typically come on in your late 40s to mid-50s.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, joint symptoms warrant a trip to the doctor if they:

  • last 3 days or more
  • occur several times within a month
  • cause you concern

In addition to joint pain and stiffness, other symptoms to look out for include:

Arthritis is a common cause of joint pain. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, but some of the most common include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout.

Cold weather may contribute to joint pain in several ways. Some of these may be due to the physical effects of cold temperatures on joints. Others have to do with the effect of cold on mood or physical activity.

If you have joint pain when it’s cold out, there are steps you can take to help manage it. These include dressing warmly, staying active, and using heat or OTC medications to ease pain and stiffness.