Creaky joints mean a storm is brewing, right?
Or is that just an old wives’ tale?
For those with arthritis, it’s actually true, said Matthew Axtman, DO, an orthopedics sports medicine specialist with Corewell Health.
That’s one reason why winter can be tough on arthritic joints. When the cartilage in a joint wears down, it causes inflammation and swelling in the joint.
Cold weather cannot penetrate the joint and cause pain, Dr. Axtman said.
But the drop in barometric pressure that often accompanies a snowstorm can have an effect.
“When barometric pressure starts to change, the fluid tends to expand,” he said. “If there is any fluid in the joints, that fluid is going to expand, and that can cause an increase in achiness and soreness.”
To minimize the aches and pains caused by arthritis, he recommends exercise.
“One of the most important aspects is to get the joint moving,” he said. “Motion is the lotion for the joint. That is going to lubricate it and keep that pain at bay.”
It may take a bit more motivation to keep active on chilly winter days, but it can make a big difference for your joints.
In general, low-impact exercises such as biking, swimming, walking and working out can be helpful. An elliptical machine is particularly useful for low-impact activity.
Some strength training can help, too.
But if you have arthritis, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program, Dr. Axtman said.
To ease the pain caused by arthritis, he recommends trying either heat or cold therapy.
A heating pad stimulates blood flow and can reduce muscle spasms.
A cold compress can reduce swelling and numb deep pain.
Bracing the joint can help. Anti-inflammatory medications and acetaminophen can also be effective.
In some cases, patients get relief from an injection to the joint. Cortisone can reduce inflammation. And viscosupplementation, a synthetic form of hyaluronic acid, coats the joint and reduces frictions.
“Depending on how bad the arthritis is, we can do surgical intervention and replace the joint,” Dr. Axtman said. “But we want that to be a last-case scenario.”
On snowy and icy days, remember to step carefully.
“If you fall, you are going to aggravate things and cause more pain,” Dr. Axtman said.