6 Steps to Alleviating Joint Pain in Cold Weather

It’s a bit of an old joke, people talking about being able to forecast the weather because one of their knees is “acting up.” But there is some truth to the tale about weather affecting joint pain, especially for people with arthritis. While the science behind it isn’t definitive, the general consensus is that falling barometric pressure, which comes with cold weather, causes swelling and expansion of tissues in joints. Low pressure can also cause reactions in the synovial lining of joints, which normally work to keep the joints “lubricated” for healthy cartilage. For people with joint injuries or arthritis, the nerves in joints may become hypersensitive to changes in cold weather due to scarring or inflammation.

Whatever the cause, cold weather certainly causes increased joint pain in many people. Luckily, there are steps you can take during colder months to help avoid or alleviate the problem.

Dress Smart

This may seem simple, but dressing in layers helps keep your core body temperature higher which eases the shock of cold weather on your body. Layers of warmth also help keep your joints and surrounding muscles and ligaments warm and help to avoid stiffness.

Keep Moving

It’s tempting to decrease your activity level in colder months, but staying active and continuing to exercise helps with joint pain by maintaining mobility. Decreased range of motion can result in more pain. Exercise also builds up muscle and bone strength, which reduces pressure on your joints so they are less prone to injury.


Colder months might be the perfect time to try new activities designed to stretch your body and increase flexibility. Yoga and Tai Chi are both great activities that provide gentle stretching that may help keep joints flexible and strong even in cold weather. Gentle stretching motions before going outside into the cold are also a good idea

Eat Right

Resist the urge to indulge during cold, winter months. Eating well and maintaining a healthy weight can make a tremendous difference in joint pain. Even gaining as little as five pounds can exponentially increase the amount of strain on joints, especially if you have an injury. Add food rich in Omega-3, such as salmon and other fish, walnuts and edamame to your diet. Greens and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and kale, are another great choice for your diet.

Apply Heat – in Moderation

Applying heat to sore joints can help alleviate pain by relaxing surrounding muscles. But be careful, never sleep with a heating pad or use it for extended periods of time to avoid burns.

Think Beyond Pain Medication

Joint pain can be treated in a variety of ways beyond pain medication. There are plenty of over-the-counter remedies that can help with seasonal joint pain, including supplements. Glucosamine Sulfate, Vitamin D, Chondroitin and other supplements have been shown to help in some patients. Ask your doctor for recommendations about OTC medicines, supplements and creams or ointments that can help you cope with cold weather.

Reviewed by: Michael Rosen, DO, Cameron Orthopedics
Dr. Rosen is a licensed, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine, as well as general orthopedic care. He is now accepting new patients. To schedule an appointment, call Cameron Orthopedics at (260) 667-5556.


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