It’s cold outside! So why do my joints hurt?

Many people report that their joints tend to tighten during the colder months, and the aches and pains they experience may become unbearable.

Does the temperature outside affect your joints? It may seem like a simple question, but the answer is not.

Many people report that their joints tend to tighten during the colder months, and the aches and pains they experience may become unbearable.

Whether this is a result of an ongoing issue, or you have recently had a fall or injury to a particular area of your body, the change in weather can in fact increase the pain you feel inside your joints.

To help solve these problems, Associate Professor Peter Wong from Westmead Hospital Rheumatology Department offered some useful tips for reducing joint pain in winter.

“Without a doubt, people, in general, can become a lot stiffer in the colder months,” Dr Wong said.

“People may also experience discolouration of the skin on the hands or fingers, or tingles on their extremities – this is due to the blood vessels in these areas tightening in response to the cold.

“However, when your joints hurt, this is probably because the joint compartment expands, causing pressure to build upon your tendons, muscles and scar tissue.”

Associate Professor Peter Wong from Westmead Hospital Rheumatology Department

Dr Wong explained that this can happen to anyone but it’s more common in people who suffer from arthritis or are recovering from an injury or surgery that has left scar tissue inside the body.

“A lot of my patients chase the warmer weather. For example, if they live in Victoria or Tasmania, they often move up north for the colder months in order to escape the extreme temperatures that these states and territories face.”

The good news is if you suffer from increased joint pain in winter, you do not have to chase the sun all year round.

Dr Wong said there are many things you can do at home to relieve the pain and discomfort.

“There is not much medical intervention required for joint pain as a result of a change in temperature,” he explained.

“Stretch out the joints, layer up and look for over the counter products like chemical-heat hand warmers.

“If you keep your extremities warm, such as your fingers and toes, a lot of the time, your core body temperature will maintain its heat.

“Blood is pulled away from the extremities first, so keeping these warm will do wonders.”

Joint pain resulting from the cold weather is only temporary and is easily relieved when warmed or stretched out.

If you are experiencing severe or ongoing joint pain or swelling in these areas, please contact your GP.

Westmead Hospital rheumatology department provides both in-patient and out-patient facilities and research laboratories for the treatment and study of rheumatic conditions.