Weather pain, or weather-related pain, is felt by many people in our region of the world with the climate in North Vancouver. We often have more muscle stiffness, joint pain, and migraines as the weather changes to cooler temperatures and increased precipitation in the fall and winter. The dampness that accompanies the increased rain in North Vancouver is often blamed for the miserable pain in the feet, knees, back, and hips that a great percentage of our city has to deal with from October through March. But does cold and damp weather actually result in increased joint pain? That question cannot be answered with 100% confidence, and there is likely a greater force (or a reduction of force) that results in increased joint pain.
What causes increased joint pain with cold weather?
There is no one specific weather mechanism that is at fault, but numerous scientists believe that the variable that affects the increase of joint pain and increase frequency of headaches with cold weather is barometric pressure changes. Barometric pressure is the weight of the atmosphere that surrounds us. High barometric pressure pushes against the body which keeps the joint capsules and tissues surrounding the joints from expanding. When the barometric pressure drops, the tissue expands, and it can increase pressure against the joint. Synovial joints, the vast majority of the joints in our body, are richly innervated with nerve endings and neuron receptors and can be very sensitive to these slight changes in pressure, resulting in chronic pain. Another similar theory is that the joint itself swells inside of the capsule with the decreased pressure from the outside. Either way we look at it, there is more pressure on the nerve endings and nerve receptors inside the joint from the decrease in barometric pressure.
These effects are even more prominent at higher altitudes where there is less barometric pressure. Have you ever had your feet swell up while flying? Even though the cabins of air crafts are pressurized, many of us get swollen feet that are helped by wearing compression socks.
Does the cold temperature affect my joint pain?
Cold weather likely contributes to aches and pains because cold increases tightness and stiffness of soft tissue structures in the body, including ligaments, tendons, and muscles. With a tug-of-war of tightness around a joint that the tissues are attached to, joint centration is lost and irritation can increase, resulting in pain. Cold weather likely has a more indirect result on joint pain in this way by affecting tightness of tissues attached to the joint, compared to the pressure changes which directly affect the joint.
How do I reduce joint pain due to weather changes?
· Chiropractic assessment to find out if your joints are relieved with decompression and mobilization.
· Compression socks, elbow sleeves, and knee sleeves are all safe and effective for providing joint pressure.
· Kinisio Tape.
· Wear warm clothing to reduce muscle stiffness.
· Apply regular 10 minute intervals of heat to your troublesome areas (if not contraindicated by a systemic condition such as an inflammatory arthritis).
Contact our North Vancouver Chiropractors at Rejuvenation Wellness to learn more about how to care for your joints this winter!