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18th December, 20203 min read

Does cold, wet weather make joint pain worse?

Medical reviewer:Healthily's medical team
Author:Claire Fielden
Last reviewed: 15/12/2020
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

Many people with joint and bone problems feel that their stiffness and pain gets worse in colder weather. Could this be the case?

Joint pain is a very common problem, with many possible causes. For example, you may get joint pain because you have a condition called arthritis, or because you’ve had an injury in the past.

Read on to learn if cold weather really makes joint pain worse, why this might be,and what to do if your joints are painful.

Can the weather really affect joint pain?

A lot of people certainly say they feel like cold weather affects their joint pain. And in one recent study of people with long-term health conditions, including arthritis, people were more likely to have more pain on damp and windy days. But there isn’t conclusive scientific evidence that the weather makes a difference.

So, is there any way cold, wet weather could make joint pain worse? Some experts say it might be because:

  • cold weather tends to make people less active. If you don’t move as much, you start to feel stiff – which could make your joints more painful
  • changes in the weather could increase the pressure on your joints
  • cold weather may make your nerves more sensitive to pain

Why else might my joint pain feel worse – and should I see a doctor?

Many people find that their joint pain changes over time.This may have nothing to do with the weather. It might be that your joint pain is getting worse generally, or changing in some other way.

In fact, it's best not to assume that any changes are due to the r weather, as there could be another reason, which may need treatment. For example, if you’ve recently hurt a joint and it suddenly becomes painful again, you should see a doctor.

Increased pain in your joints could also be a sign of a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, which you should speak to your doctor about. These are some signs to look out for:

  • joint pain that gets worse when you’ve been resting
  • swelling around your joints, which feels warm when you touch it
  • a feeling of stiffness, especially when you wake up in the morning

Some viral and bacterial infections can also cause pain in the joints. It's best to book an appointment with a doctor if you have joint pain that gets worse or doesn't go away.

What will make my joint pain better?

It may help to take painkillers. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor for further guidance on how to safely get and use these medicines.

Other things that may be helpful for joint pain include:

  • staying active – try not to stay in one place for too long
  • simple stretching exercises
  • low-impact fitness classes, such as tai chi, yoga or Pilates
  • water-based fitness classes or swimming – being in water takes pressure off your joints
  • putting a pillow under your feet to reduce any swelling
  • taking a warm bath or shower
  • drinking plenty of water

Key points

  • joint pain is a common problem
  • some people find that joint pain gets worse in cold weather
  • if you feel your joint pain is getting worse, see a doctor
  • there are things you can do at home to help with your joint pain
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