will-the-winterIf you have arthritis or joint problems, you’ve probably noticed it yourself. The pain tends to increase when the weather turns colder. Does that mean wintertime is the cause, or is it something else?

Actually, the science on this point is mixed. There have been some studies that point to a definitive link, while others find little to no direct relation between the two. The truth, then, is probably somewhere in between.

As almost anyone who has ever had to deal with arthritis or chronic joint pain can attest to, the cold weather certainly seems to make these types of aches and pains more common. But what’s really going on here? There are lots of different theories. Some of them seem pretty far-fetched, while others have an air of plausibility to them.

Take, for instance, the idea that changes in barometric pressure make joint pain worse. The idea here is that when it gets cold, barometric pressure drops. The atmosphere exerts less pressure, which lets joints expand, increasing pain.

Now, there’s some truth to this, and if you lived on top of some of the highest mountains in the world, you’d certainly feel it in your joints. That, however, isn’t true for most people, and at lower elevations, the change in pressure is so slight that it’s doubtful this has any real impact.

On the other hand, your body does react to cold weather. It goes into conservation mode. It tries to preserve as much heat as it can, and there is some scientific evidence to suggest that this heat preservation strategy can cause some of your nerve endings to misbehave and send more intense pain signals more often.

The most likely explanation, though, is simply this: When it gets cold out, our natural instinct is to bundle up, stay warm and not move around as much. The not moving around is what really gets people with joint pain in trouble. The longer you’re still, the stiffer those joints get, and when you finally do move, you’ll feel it.

The lesson here is simple. When the weather turns cold, keep moving! That’s the best way to minimize joint pain, no matter the weather.