Anyone who suffers from arthritis pain can tell you that their joints stiffen up as the temperature drops. And researchers have demonstrated in clinical studies that fluctuations in temperature or barometric pressure can have a very real effect on joint pain in arthritis patients, though they are still working out the exact reason for this phenomenon.
For patients with arthritis, the cold, damp weather can not only increase stiffness and joint pain it can also lead to increased anxiety, depression, and isolation. Knowing when to seek professional help is an important factor in maintaining long-term joint health and overall wellness. Dr. Jack Waxman of NCMA’s Fountain Grove Rheumatology can help you understand and manage the symptoms associated with arthritis including those worsened by cold weather.
Arthritis Pain – where does it come from?The pain of arthritis can originate from a variety of sources. These may include:
There are at least 100 different known musculoskeletal diseases or conditions that effectively destroy joints, bones, muscles, cartilage, and other connective tissues, all leading to restricted physical movement of some degree. Winter weather can escalate symptoms and take its toll on arthritis sufferers in a many different ways.
How it Starts
In a healthy body, a membrane called the Synovium surrounds the joints and provides important cushioning. This membrane works to produce a small amount of thick fluid called Synovial Fluid that nourishes the cartilage, keeping movement fluid. The Synovium has a strong outer layer called the Capsule, which keeps the bones from moving too much. Whereas ligaments are thick, strong bands usually just outside the Capsule located on both sides help to keep bones firmly in place. And finally, tendons, also located on both sides, attach muscles to bones. Their job is to hold the joint in place and help to move it.
Symptoms of arthritis are known to manifest in many ways, and it can be difficult to diagnose. It can come on slowly with only mild symptoms, or symptoms may appear suddenly, causing intense pain that escalates within just a few hours. Arthritis symptoms can also appear only occasionally over a long period of time. It might cause joint pain, swelling, and stiffness, but it can also cause seemingly unrelated health problems like fatigue or a rash. In fact, early signs of arthritis are often mistaken for an injury or the result of over activity.
Common Types of Arthritis
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a progressive degenerative joint disease characterized by the breakdown of joint cartilage associated with risk factors such as weight (obesity), having a history of joint injury, and age. It affects nearly 27 million Americans, most over the age of 45.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a systemic disease characterized by the inflammation of the membrane lining the joint causing pain, stiffness, a sensation of warmth, swelling and sometimes severe joint damage. It can also cause inflammation all over the body, affecting vital organs such as the lungs. In the U.S., an estimated 1.5 million people have RA and for some reason, there are 2.5 times as many women as men with the disease.Some facts about this debilitating disease:
Joint health is an important part of every person’s sense of wellness, potentially impacting productivity, quality of life, and independence. Taking steps to protect joints from ongoing pain and permanent damage caused by uncontrolled inflammation is important to everyone, and early diagnosis and treatment can actually save more than just joints.
It is important to understand that arthritis pain affects people differently. Factors that can add to the pain a person may experience include the amount of swelling within the joint, the extent of heat or redness present, and the damage that has occurred within the joint. Some patients report pain in their joints first thing in the morning while others may develop pain only after prolonged use of the joint. Everyone has a different threshold and tolerance for pain, and physical and emotional factors can also contribute to the sensations of pain.
Consult a Professional
If you are experiencing joint symptoms and are wondering if it is arthritis, then perhaps it is time to consult a healthcare practitioner in your area. Because there are so many types of arthritis and such a variety of conditions that affect the joints, diagnosis can be difficult. Most people suffering from joint pain usually start with their primary care physician and are then referred to medical specialists called rheumatologists, experts in arthritis and related diseases.