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Home Health Education Living With Joint Pain
Cold Weather Can Cause More Aches and Pains for Arthritis Sufferers Print E-mail

Cold weather can cause arthritis sufferers like you to feel increased stiffness and arthritis pain. When the temperature warms up, these feelings may disappear.

Interestingly, little research has been done about cold temperatures having any direct effect on arthritis or the progression of the disease, says Richard Konsens, MD, an orthopedic surgeon from Orlando, Florida. While weather can be measured easily, he said, patients' pain and stiffness are tougher to gauge: "There's no scale for stiffness."

However, the most common weather-related complaints are joint and muscle aches, Konsens says. "Cold weather generally increases stiffness in everybody." Since people with arthritis complain about stiffness as one symptom of the disease, "it's reasonable to assume that cold weather makes arthritis patients extra stiff," he said. "They may have to work harder to limber up or warm up."

"There's not a lot of research on this subject," he says, "but women with arthritis seem to be more affected by the cold than men."

Changes in climate and humidity levels can also increase arthritis pain and overall pain, Dr. Konsens points out. This does not mean you need to alter your lifestyle, but you should be aware rapid temperature changes can be a factor when you feel extra stiff and achy. You will probably start feeling less achy when the weather improves.

Dressing properly can also help, says Brent Dodge, PT, CSCS, a physical therapist and strength-conditioning specialist for Medical Multimedia Group in Missoula, Montana. This includes layering your clothes, "so you're not just wearing dress pants and going from a 70 degree vehicle to -20 degrees outside. Dress for the transition," he says.

Dodge says people who live in colder climates can adjust to the cold temperatures, but he adds, "That's no excuse to challenge the body or put it to the test. You still need to know your body's limitations."

Ultimately, Dr. Konsens recommends winter as a good time for arthritis patients to get a complete medical evaluation.


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