Can Cold Weather Affect your Arthritis?

People with arthritis often complain of heightened joint pain during the cold winter months or rainy seasons. This is seen as a myth by some, but studies show that weather changes actually can affect your joint pain. So if this frigid winter weather we’re experiencing is giving you fits, there’s reason to believe it’s your arthritis.

What kind of weather is the worst?

According to a 2014 study of people with arthritis, 67% of participants reported weather sensitivity, especially to cold and wet days. So what’s so special about the cold and rainy days that make your joints ache?

Researchers believe that the main reason arthritis flairs up in cold and wet weather is because atmospheric changes of barometric pressure and temperature increase swelling in the joint capsule.

Barometric pressure

This refers to the weight of the air. Barometric pressure increases when the humidity levels rise. Some scientists say that pressure changes can actually cause your tendons to expand and contract. This can make your joints and muscles ache more. So when it rains, high humidity levels can give your joints a run for their money.


Pain levels have been known to increase when there is a significant drop or rise in temperature. Tufts University found in 2007 that every 10-degree drop in temperature corresponded with an increase in arthritis pain.

Other scientists believe that much of this phenomenon is mental. When it’s cold, wet, and snowy, people tend to stay indoors and don’t get much physical activity. This isn’t good for your joints or your mental health. When it’s warm and sunny outside, people get more exercise and generally feel better mentally and physically! However, there certainly is a correlation between the two. We recommend keeping some of these tips in mind to cope with the cold winter.

Tips for surviving the cold weather with arthritis

Drink plenty of fluids

It can be easy to forget to drink plenty of water when it’s cold or rainy outside, but stay hydrated!

Dress in loose layers

Looser layers can trap body heat and keep your joints warm, but if you get too hot, you’ll have options to de-layer

Warm up before you head outside

If you have arthritis, it’s important to make sure your core is warmed before you go out into frigid temperatures. Walking around the house or on a treadmill and stretching will get your joints loosened and your muscles warmed.

Exercise with low-impact exercises 

Biking, walking, and even skiing or snowshoeing are great alternatives to any high-impact exercise that could hurt your joints more.

If you are suffering from significant arthritis pain this winter, call us to schedule an appointment. We also have nurses available to answer your questions over the phone.

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