From the Archives: The Battle Between Old Man Winter and My Achy Joints


This post comes from February 2010. It was due for a repost considering I am dealing with the same thing again this winter.

There is no mystery, if you ask me, why my joint pain is the worst on days that are below the freezing mark. The only mystery is the unnecessary research dollars that are being spent on the answers to understanding this so-called “mystery”. Long before it even snows, arthritis sufferers know when the weather plans to hit the freezing mark. Ah, yes, how I would trade the aching pain in all of my joints during winter for the occasional stiffness and pain that I dealt with in the summer months.

Studies have shown that 70 percent of people with arthritis are weather sensitive and women are more affected by weather sensitivity then men. I swear I can feel the cold in my joints when I am wrapped up in a warm blanket in my warm home. A part of me wonders how much of this is psychological. Alternatively, why have I not found a cave and hibernated for the winter?

Experience and plenty of reading about my conditions definitely gives me an idea of what to expect, but it does not make it any easier. Everyone gets sicker in the winter from colds to the flu to chronic ailments because of exposure to cold, windy and damp conditions. For those of us who suffer from a form of arthritis, we should be given a winter pardon from our jobs and from leaving our homes. Yes, if it were only that easy. The only real way to make winter easy is to get moving and sitting by a warm fire in your jammies and watching your soaps just will not cut it.

The way Old Man Winter makes us suffer is by using cold and damp weather to cause our tendons, ligaments and muscles surrounding joints to contract. Further, atmospheric pressure affects cavities in the joints – and Waa-Laa!~ you get arthritis! The belief is that weather in of itself does not affect arthritis but in addition to the lack of activity – you have a flare-up – or two, or three or more – waiting to happen.

Surviving winter is what people in the Northeast are notorious for and years of achy winters have long prepared me for what to expect but it never gets easier. Regardless, the best thing you can do survive winter is to keep the pain of arthritis from getting much worse in winter by covering up – socks and gloves – and don’t forget to keep moving. Avoiding strenuous activity like shoveling (that is what kids are for) and being careful of slippery surfaces to avoid injury will make those bone-chilling winter days easier.

In the meantime, the battle between Old Man Winter and my joints continues. So far, Old Man Winter is winning: 100 to none.

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2 Responses to From the Archives: The Battle Between Old Man Winter and My Achy Joints

  1. Uhhhh….I must be the weirdo out there as hot humid days do me in totally. I lived in the northeast for years and winters didn’t bother me too badly. I think for me personally the humidity is what is doing me in and terribly so. I found southern Calif. to be the best combo for me and ra but that area was just to expensive to live in. And I think the humidity makes my synovial fluid expand which is what makes the pain for me. I can’t scientifically prove any of this and we agree on the fact that I wish more studies would be done on weather and chronic autoimmune diseases.

  2. Terry says:

    I used to love getting out on cold and snowy days pre RA, now I have grown to hate and dread winters. We had snow and an arctic chill that hung out over us most of last week that sent me into a serious flare. I understand this, what I don’t understand is about 3 weeks ago a cold front was coming in. I had been at work about an hour and suddenly my right shoulder, hips and hands started aching. It took a little while to remember that there was a cold front moving in that was still some 3 hours away. It was 78 degrees outside and I work in a climate controlled building.

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