I Know It’s Going To Rain Because My Joints Are Aching

True or an old wife’s tale? Many say that their arthritis pain gets worse when the weather is cold or wet but why is this and is there any truth in it?

This article should help to inform you about arthritis as a condition and the things you can do to help.

 

Arthritis is a common condition which affects over 10 million people in the UK, and it is estimated that 1 in 8 visits to the GP are due to arthritis.  It causes pain and inflammation in joints, but are there different types of treatment, exercise and medication that can help?

Typically we see an increase in patients symptoms over the winter, especially with the Ribble Valley's notoriously soggy weather.

First of all, arthritis is an umbrella term of conditions that affect the bodies joints and can be subdivided into non-inflammatory Osteoarthritis (OA) which affects over 8 million people in the UK.

Secondly, inflammatory arthritis, an auto-immune disease where the body’s’ immune system attacks healthy tissue.  Inflammatory arthritis includes conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus and gout, and effects more than 400,000 adults and could be impacting as many as 300,000 more of us without us realising.  Both types of arthritis are typically found in people over the age of 40, but can even be found in children.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis is caused by basic wear and tear over a period of time which damages the cartilage in joints, causing stiffness and pain. This form of arthritis is a degenerative condition therefore, the risk of developing OA increases with age, or as a result of trauma to joints including fractures.  It most commonly affects our knees and hips but can be found within any joint in our body.

Now here’s a little bit of anatomy, so bear with us before we get onto a few preventative and treatment hints. The tips of our bones are covered in cartilage (a coating a bit like the non-stick surface on a pan) and the gap between the bones is filled with synovial fluid, a sort of oil that lubricates the joint.

Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage gets damaged and it becomes thinner and rougher a bit like rust. It is the bodies healing process that causes problems when the underlying bone tries to repair the cartilage and outgrows, changing the shape of the joint and causing the two main symptoms of OA, pain and stiffness.  When we are inactive the synovial fluid can leak out of the joint space adding to the potential for damage. Therefore, the less we move the stiffer we get.

My Joints Hurt So It Must Be About To Rain…

So what is the theory around why our joint pain gets worse in colder / wetter weather? This old wife’s tale has been given plenty of attention in the past and a number of studies have gathered mixed results. Scientists are not 100% sure why, but theories have been but forward  that  inflamed joints swell as barometric pressure drops. The nerve endings in your joints become more sensitive in lower barometric pressures, and therefore, this increase in swelling and sensitivity irritates the nerves around the joints, causing pain.

So What? So, Barometric Pressure is basically the weight of the atmosphere around us and what is known is that as the bad weather comes in this pressure drops. The important point here is that the pressure will often fall before the weather turns which is why having arthritis is almost as good as watching the Countryfile Weather Forecast.

Cloudy with a chance of Rain

You can now help scientist with their research using a new app called 'Cloudy with a chance of rain'. You track your symptoms daily on the app, and the data collected helps researchers study the effects of the weather on your symptoms.

Motion is Lotion

It is important to keep moving and exercise with arthritic joints, otherwise your joints will stiffen up more than usual, and the muscles around your joints become weak.  Stiffness first thing in a morning, or after prolonged sitting is often a sign of inflammation in the joint.  However it is important that when exercising you choose the right type and amount of exercise.  Just enough to help your joints but not enough to cause even more PAIN and inflammation.

Walking, cycling, Pilates and Yoga are good forms of exercise to help strengthen your joints.  When you exercise and strengthen muscles, this helps to cushion and project your joints.  Try some of the strength exercises for the knee in our rehab video.   If you are unsure what is the right exercise for you then speak to a therapist or your GP for advise.

Other Treatments

Therapists can also offer treatments such as massage, stretching, acupuncture and TENS therapy to help your symptoms.

Heat including hot wheat bags or hot water bottles can help aching joints. Other pain relief options include Painkillers and steroid injections  but we advise you speak to your GP to discuss these options.