Cold Weather & Arthritis
Dennis A. Jerdan, M.D., M.B.A.
There are many common myths about the relationship between cold weather and arthritis, but the reality is that cold temperatures don’t necessarily induce arthritic pain. Recent studies indicate that the change in weather (from warm to cold or vice versa) is the more likely trigger for the aches and pains of joints and bones.
However, some patients do report that the cold brings out the worst of their arthritis. Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and lupus may be particularly prone to Raynaud’s Phenomenon, in which the blood vessels in the tips of the fingers or toes are restricted and change color. This condition can worsen in colder weather, and patients are encouraged to keep their digits warm with hand warmers, gloves, mittens, and thick socks.
Arthritis is found in people worldwide, from the frozen tundra to the hot dry desert, and everywhere in between. Cold weather might make you less comfortable in general – and if you suffer from painful arthritis, anything that makes you less comfortable will make you feel worse. But there is no inherent correlation between the actual temperature and the pain in your bones.
Tips for Arthritis Pain in Cold Weather:
- Keep joints warm. Dress warmly in cold weather and make sure to stretch before any cold weather activity.
- If you feel your arthritis symptoms worsen in specific weather, try to avoid strenuous activity, like raking wet leaves or shoveling snow, at those times.
- Give your aching bones and joints a warm water soak. Immerse your achy body parts in a sink or tub (water temperature should be around 100ºF) and gently flex or move them for 15 to 20 minutes.