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Achy joints: Is it the weather or something else?

Paoli Hospital January 29, 2020 Sports and Fitness

It’s not uncommon to blame the weather for achy joints and body pains. For decades, people have joked that the onset of knee pain or a headache means rain or snow is on its way. But is there any merit to this long-held belief?

Yes…and no. While research has not yet found a meaningful connection between joint pain and rainy weather, it has suggested some that barometric pressure or severe temperatures can worsen joint pain. Consider, for example, how cold weather can stiffen joints and make them more rigid, which can make movement more difficult or uncomfortable.

“Additional research is still needed to definitively conclude whether or not there is a connection between joint pain and weather. But because so many patients report the weather as a trigger for their pain, it’s not something we can completely discount,” says Main Line Health orthopaedic surgeon Jonathan P. Garino, MD.

If your joint pain comes and goes with the weather, it’s probably not something you need to be worried about. But if it’s persistent or is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, it may be time to make an appointment with your primary care provider:

  • Redness and swelling
  • Skin that is warm and tender to the touch
  • Deformity of the joint
  • Difficulty moving your joint or completing everyday activities (walking, exercising, standing, etc.)
  • Noises like clicking, popping or snapping when you move the joint

These are signs that your joint pain may be a sign of something more.

Keep joint pain at bay

“One of the best ways to manage your risk for issues like arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis or other common causes of joint pain is to take preventive measures that protect your joints from injury,” says Dr. Garino.

Even if your movement is mostly pain-free, there are a few things you can do—starting today—to protect your joints from future joint pain or injury:

  • Maintain a healthy weight to reduce stress on your joints
  • Stay active—try joint-friendly exercises like biking or swimming
  • Wear supportive or shock-absorbent shoes to protect your joints during exercise or daily activity
  • If you smoke, quit.

“One of the best ways to manage your risk for issues like arthritis, bursitis, tendinitis or other common causes of joint pain is to take preventive measures that protect your joints from injury.”

And if you do find that particularly cold weather causes you temporary joint pain, there are steps you can take to manage that, too. Dress in layers to keep yourself warm, apply a heating pad to the affected area and avoid going outdoors unless you need to.

Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.