Tips for Fixing Winter Joint Pain

Summit Orthopedics sports medicine physician Daniel Probst, M.D., discusses the possible causes of winter joint pain and tips for beating that winter achiness.

In Minnesota, we know that winter can be especially tough on our joints. While it’s not exactly clear why joints ache more when the temperature drops, the best explanation may be a combination of factors. Regardless of why it happens, however, here are some helpful tips for relieving winter joint pain.

Why do we experience winter joint pain?

“We don’t have a great explanation in the research in terms of why it happens, definitively speaking,” said Daniel Probst, M.D. “There are lots of interesting theories, however.”

Potential causes of winter joint pain include:

Barometric pressure changes can cause achiness for some people.

Muscle stiffness — “When it’s cold, muscles are a little stiffer,” Dr. Probst said. “This causes a little more pressure and pull on your joints.”

Lifestyle changes — In winter, people may be sitting around more and being less active. “Joints like to be used. When joints aren’t used, they can get painful,” Dr. Probst said.

Low mood — With its lack of sunlight, winter can lower a person’s mood. “A more depressed mood correlates to experiencing more pain,” Dr. Probst said.

In many cases, the true cause of winter joint pain is probably a combination of factors. “No one reason explains everything, but with all the different factors at play, it makes sense that joint pain would be more of a problem in winter,” Dr. Probst said.

Tips for fixing winter joint pain

For those who have experienced winter joint pain in the past, Dr. Probst has a few tips to help avoid winter achiness this year:

  1. Avoid holiday weight gain — “Try your best to keep off those extra pounds around the holidays,” Dr. Probst said. Each pound of weight gained puts four to five times as much pressure on your joints.
  2. Stay active — Because joints are made to move, staying active throughout the winter helps keep your joints healthy, prevents weight gain, and boosts mood.
  3. Try to stay warm — Dress properly in layers, and use heating pads or hand warmers when you’ll be out in the cold. “Heat helps to relax muscles, which can help to combat muscle tension when it gets cold and reduce the associated stress on your joints,” Dr. Probst said.
  4. Pay extra attention to your mental health — Devote a little more focus to checking in with yourself, assessing your mood, and finding ways to lift your spirits. If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, reach out to your primary care doctor or mental health professional for help.

When to seek treatment for your arthritis

Arthritis doesn’t have to spell the end of an active life. If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms like winter joint pain or persistent pain, the renowned arthritis specialists at Summit Orthopedics can help. We work with you to confirm a diagnosis and develop an appropriate conservative treatment plan. If nonsurgical treatments fail to support your lifestyle goals, fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeons will consult with you and discuss appropriate surgical options. Summit is home to innovative joint replacement options. Our Vadnais Heights Surgery Center is one of a select few nationally to receive The Joint Commission’s Advanced Certification for Total Hip and Total Knee Replacement.

Start your journey to healthier joints. Find your arthritis expert, schedule an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNPlymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

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  • Daniel T. Probst, M.D., C.A.Q.

    “As a sports medicine physician and active Minnesotan, I understand the importance of functioning at your highest level. I take a conservative approach to the treatment of orthopedic injuries focusing on personally tailored physical therapy, ultrasound diagnosis, and, if needed, injections. From competitive athletes and weekend warriors to those simply looking to lead a more active lifestyle, I work with my patients to help them achieve their goals.”

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