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Joint pain in winter

Joint disorders | June 6, 2017 | Author: Naturopath


Joint pain in winter

Often people seem to experience a worsening of symptoms of arthritis; joint pain, stiffness and discomfort, when the weather turns cold and damp. Although studies and experiments have been performed there has been no conclusive cause for joint symptoms to be more prevalent when the weather is cooler [1]. There is however some theories for this phenomenon.

Tjoint pain temperaturehere is the suggestion that when there is a drop in barometric pressure, the external pressure exerted against joints reduces, allowing surrounding tissue to expand, exerting internal pressure on the joints, which causes uncomfortable symptoms

A second theory involves dropping temperatures. A study of 200 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee concluded that each progressive 10-degree decrease in ambient temperature corresponded to an increase in knee pain of 0.1 on the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Arthritis (WOMAC) Index. Furthermore, moisture in the air, low temperature, and low pressure may stimulate pain, possibly by increasing swelling in the joint capsule [2].

Whatever the cause, the symptoms are distressing and it can be helpful to have a contingency plan up your sleeve.

How to avoid those aching joints!

Take a long holiday. Moving to a warmer climate through the cold months may be the best thing but not always achievable. Still, try and plan your holidays around the coldest or wet months so you can at least experience a bit of relief.

Stay warm. Sounds simple, but it is a good idea to rug up before leaving your warm confines. Warm the car before leaving the garage and programme the air conditioner to warm the house before your return if possible. Wait till the day warms up before venturing out. The clothes won’t dry any faster when it’s damp, so wait till the sun is shining before hanging out the laundry and performing other outside activities. Don’t forget the winter apparel - gloves, scarves, woollen jumpers, warm underwear, woollen socks and water proof shoes are a must have [3].

Exercise - a change in weather can often break good exercise habits which can cause the joints to stiffen and muscles to become less flexible. Try changing your exercise to suit the weather, opting for indoor activities or doing your outdoor sports later in the day when the sun is up.

If you haven’t established an exercise routine, the colder months can be a perfect time to start

Exercise can be a quick way to warm the body, stimulating circulation and lubricating joints and stretching the muscles to allow good blood flow. This allows the removal of waste and toxins from the joints and muscles and brings in fresh oxygen and nutrients to better support repair. Try for at least 30 minutes every day

Massage is highly recommended for people with arthritis or joint pain to help alleviate pain and increase circulation. According to studies done by Tiffany Field, PhD, a research psychologist at the University of Miami Medical School, massage can result in a significant reduction in pain for people with all types of arthritis. She suggests any type of full-body massage therapy that involves moderate pressure, including self-massage, should help relieve arthritis pain and ease tension.  

A moderate pressure was found to be the key, by stimulating the pressure receptors. These receptors, located beneath the skin’s surface, convey signals to the brain to alleviate pain and release beneficial, stress-reducing neurochemicals like serotonin [4]. 

joint pain massageA moderate pressure was found to induce relaxation; whereas a light pressure was stimulating and raised the heart blood pressure.  

Choose your favourite massage that best suits you and have regular sessions to help with your symptoms

If you are new to massage therapy, make sure your general practitioner gives you the go-a-head.

Warm bath! Take the time to enjoy a soothing bath to comfort those sore joints and muscles. Add some magnesium flakes and lavender oil to aid relaxation and promote a good night sleep.

Eating warming foods can help you feel warmer. Think of adding ginger, garlic or chilies into your food for a circulation boost. Nourishing broths and soups with lots of vegetables are especially enjoyable in the colder weather.

Natural therapies aim to support circulation and reduce inflammation.

Herbs and spices

Ginger (zingiber officinale) actions include anti-inflammatory and peripheral circulatory stimulant. Ginger is well indicated for arthritic conditions, rheumatism and cold extremities (hands and feet). The active ingredients gingerols, shagoals and paradols in ginger root have been credited with many of the anti-inflammatory actions of ginger. Whether you are using fresh or dried ginger, the active ingredients have been found in both or choose a standardised capsule or tablet [5].

joint pain chilliCayenne, chilli (capsicum annuum) can be used externally for rheumatic pain. It is indicated for poor peripheral circulation - helping by dilating blood vessels and stimulating blood flow.

Capsicum can help arthritis by reducting inflammation and helping to reduce pain.
Note: the first few applications of capsicum cream can feel like a burning sensation, this is normal - the more you use it the less the feeling [6].

Ginkgo (ginkgo biloba) main action is to improve blood flow. It is a vasodilator and anti-inflammatory making it good for circulation and can even promote memory.

Arnica (arnica montana) is another herb that can be used topically as an anti-inflammatory for joint and muscle inflammation and has been found to reduce pain in osteoarthritis.

Fish oil (omega 3) has been found to reduce the inflammatory response and thereby reduces joint pain and inflammation [7].

Essential oils that may help

Adding a few drops of essential oil to 20mls of carrier oils, such as almond oil or sunflower, can be used frequently to give relief for aching joints.

Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) has been well reported for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, muscle and joint pains and aches. Eucalyptus oil has demonstrated its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative and antibacterial activities making it useful topical oil for pain relief amongst other uses.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) the oil possesses beneficial actions on the cardiovascular system and helps regulate the blood pressure and retards the hardening of arteries. The use of it in winter is indicated to help relieve rheumatic pain aggravated by the cold.

Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) Chamomile may be useful for inflammation, muscle spasms and rheumatic pain [8].  Australia's best online discount chemist


Fisher, C; (2009), Materia Medica of Western Herbs, New Zealand Treatment of arthritis with topical capsaicin: a double-blind trial. Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain. Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review

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