"Every mile is two in winter" said poet George Herbert. A big population of Facebook fans couldn't agree more, particularly the ones who have arthritis or joint pain. We polled them to find out what triggers their hip and knee pain, and 42 percent blamed cold weather -- by far the leading cause. But can the elements really make your joints ache?
The scientific evidence is conflicting. Some studies find a strong relationship between short, cold, damp days and arthritis flare-ups. Research from Tufts University suggests changes in barometric pressure worsen knee pain in people with arthritis, while colder temps can cause painful changes in joint fluid thickness. Other studies have found little or no link between weather and joint pain.
Whether your aches are sparked by the weather or something else, these three steps can help you feel better.
Know your diagnosis
A songwriter once noted “Part of where you are going is knowing where you are coming from.” The same can be said when it comes to understanding the health of your joints. “Most assume the pain is from arthritis; however, there are many other joint related problems that can cause joint pain and stiffness.” says orthopedic surgeon, Matthew Cullen, DO of Belton Regional Medical Center. “Attending a simple doctor’s appointment with a joint specialist can help clarify the problem and help you get an individualized plan to help improve those aches and pains.”
Load up on foods rich in:
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Think salmon and nuts to curb inflammation.
- Vitamin K. Make meals that feature greens, such as spinach, kale, and cabbage, for their pain-soothing properties.
- Vitamin C. Add color to your diet with juicy oranges, sweet red peppers and tomatoes, and other C-rich foods to halt cartilage loss (and resulting pain) that comes with arthritis.
Avoid foods high in omega-6 fatty acids, such as corn oil, which may trigger painful inflammation. Also swap refined grains for whole grains. Some research suggest that refined grains may have an inflammatory effect, whereas high-fiber whole grains may help reduce inflammation.
A common reason cold weather is linked to joint pain is people are less likely to work out when it's chilly and damp. Being a couch potato is bad news for your joints because exercise helps lubricate them to prevent pain. Try these exercises from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons to keep moving.
Too cold out? Bring your workout indoors -- and don't overdo it! Choose low-impact aerobic moves that are easy on joints, such as walking, stationary biking, or aquatic workouts. Lifting weights with low weight and high repetition can also help because it builds strength in joint-supporting muscles.