How Does the Cold Weather Make Rheumatoid Arthritis Worse?

How Does Cold Weather Affect Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Almost everyone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) notices their symptoms getting progressively worse during cold weather. And while there are ways to go around this problem such as wearing warm and lightweight clothing, stretching, and staying inside well-heated rooms, most arthritis sufferers would like to know why exactly does arthritis seem to flare when the temperature drops. Unfortunately, nobody knows the answer to this question. Although this stance may sound disappointing, there are some theories out there that could make understanding the link between arthritis pain and weather conditions easier and that we will cover in this article.

No scientific evidence

The number one reason why medical experts don’t know how the weather influences arthritis symptoms is mostly because there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that this is the case. A study on the topic of arthritis and cold weather that was published in a 1999 issue of the journal Pain states that although RA patients report weather sensitivity, the relationship is not clinically significant. On the other hand, a study published a few years ago in Reumatologia Clinica found a 16% increase in flares due to cold weather.

What others experts have to say

Dr. James Fant, associate professor of medicine and director of rheumatology at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine gives his explanation for this phenomenon in a press release. After 20 years of practice and hearing RA patients complain of worsening of symptoms during cold weather, Dr. James Flant concluded that there must be something to this phenomenon. But the Arthritis Foundation is a little bit more specific on this subject, saying that those suffering from any of the most common types of arthritis may be experiencing pain because atmospheric conditions during the colder winter months increase swelling in the joint capsule.

Is it the weather or something else?

While people with arthritis swear that cold weather is to blame for their symptoms, medical experts believe that several different factors may be involved. A study published in Rheumatology found that seasonal variations are a probable cause of worsening RA symptoms. Dr. James Flaunt also says that changes in barometric pressure may be to blame. According to Flaunt, if the barometric pressure is decreased, then that allows already inflamed tissue to swell even more. The changes in tissue swelling due to barometric pressure changes stimulate nerve endings, and this leads to pain.

Cold and arthritis pain

But as far as cold weather, in particular, is concerned, cold temperatures seem to irritate the nerves surrounding joint tissue in the same way that other changes in weather conditions do. Cold weather shrinks tissue in the joint and thereby pulses on nerves causing pain, explains Dr. Flaunt. However, it is most likely that a combination cold temperatures, humid environments, and drops in barometric pressure make for the worst recipe in arthritis symptoms.

Other factors involved

And while we can see how rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can both become worse during the colder months, our behavior during these months could also be to blame. These conditions tend to become worse with a sedentary lifestyle, and we know how we tend to hibernate during the cold winter months. Not going out much, not exercising, and wearing bulky clothes that limit freedom of movement are all things that can make your joints feel worse in winter.

Other conditions that are affected by weather

People with Arthritis aren’t the only ones predicting the weather with the severity of their symptoms. Many other conditions are also known to become worse with changing weather, including drops in barometric pressure, rainfall, cold temperatures, and high humidity. Fibromyalgia, Raynaud’s syndrome, lupus, migraines, and back problems can all become worse with changing weather. Chronic pain conditions in the elderly also tend to worsen with stormy weather.

What you can do about it

Of course, the first rule is to keep yourself warm when going out. Wear loose and lightweight clothing with insulating fabrics. Bulky clothes can limit your movement, and tight clothing can prevent sweat from evaporating. Wearing compression gloves can help as well, especially if your hands are affected by RA the most. As far as maintaining high levels of physical activity goes, walking, doing housework, using the stairs, yoga, aerobics, indoor swimming, are all great options. Another option is using topical pain relievers like Traumeel and similar products.

Conclusion

While you can’t change the weather, you can change your habits to make your arthritis pain easier once the temperature drops. You may feel that it’s easier stay dormant during the winter months and wait for spring to get moving, but this could make your arthritis pain worse.  Although researchers aren’t sure how exactly the weather influences the severity of arthritis pain, they do know that the link between arthritis pain and weather conditions is strong.

Author Bio:

Sophie Addison is a popular blogger and skincare expert. She is very passionate about writing on skincare and beauty. She is an active contributor of many health and lifestyle blogs including glozine lifestyle. She has posted articles on tips for fine lines and wrinkles, best eye creams, weight loss and fitness news. Apart from work she likes gardening and listening music. You can also contact her on Facebook, and Pinterest.

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