Why you ache when it’s cold

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Cold temperatures can bring some not-so-pleasant painful side effects for your joints.

Inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and joint pain can be worse during winter months.  Weather changes in humidity, barometric pressure and temperature can bring extra aches to sufferers of conditions like arthritis, bursitis or tendonitis.

“When it’s cold outside, it’s more difficult for blood to circulate to our extremities, which can result in pain receptors becoming more sensitive,” said Dr. Tuvi Mendel of Quad City-based Orthopaedic Specialists.  “In other words, while joint conditions may not physically worsen, the pain can seem more intense.”

The increase in pain can also be evident for people who have had past orthopaedic injuries such as a sprain or break, even if the injury has healed.  Patients who have had surgeries such as joint replacements, fusions or plates or screws implanted might also notice more cold-weather pain.

“Occasionally there is some aching around the scar, which can become worse in cold weather, although this is more common with patients who have a metal implant,” according to sports medicine specialist Dr. John Hoffman of Orthopaedic Specialists.

The discomfort might be especially noticeable first thing in the morning or after you’ve been sitting for long periods of time.

Keeping the troublesome area warm with heat pads or hot water bottles can help.

Exercise is also an integral part of managing pain, but cold weather can also lead to an increased risk of injury during exercise.  Consider low-impact activities such as yoga or tai chi, and always warm up before you begin to exercise.

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