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Pain Management Health Center

Does Weather Affect Joint Pain?

How the weather can affect joint pain, and what to do about it.
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Comfort Measures continued...

Apply a heating pad to your painful joints, Jamison says. "Heat lets muscles relax, so it's a soothing way of helping with pain."

Try to prevent swelling. Warmth helps with joint pain, but not necessarily swelling, Borenstein says. For example, if bad weather worsens arthritis in the hands, try wearing Spandex gloves at night to try to keep fluid out of the joints, he suggests.

Keep moving. Before you go outside during cold weather, try to exercise your painful joints to loosen up stiffness.

Improve your mood. People in chronic pain often feel anxious, depressed, and irritable, Jamison says. But in many cases, when pain strikes, "The brain is able to override a lot of sensations."

Learning how to improve your mood is important, he says. "Break things down into bite-size pieces. Learn how to pace yourself, and figure out how to improve your sleep. We know that distraction is really important, so have something to keep your mind occupied, and keep active."

Realize that the pain is temporary. When weather-related pain strikes, "It isn't a permanent change. It's short-lived," Borenstein says.

In fact, people will begin to adjust to the barometric changes. "The body is acclimating to the change and will move fluid from the joint into the circulation, so the patient feels less stiff and less achy. These are physiological changes that occur in relationship to these barometric changes, and they will in fact resolve."

"That knowledge -- knowing what's happening -- can be reassuring to people who experience these aches because we really can't do anything about the weather. Hopefully, they realize that the pain will go away."

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Reviewed on March 11, 2014

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