More than 10 million people in the UK have arthritis or similar conditions that affect the joints. Over half of these people experience pain every day that has a big impact on their life. Individuals who live in cold climates often report more troublesome symptoms of arthritis than those living in warmer areas.
Mr Martin Goddard, Consultant Knee Surgeon at Parkside Private Hospital, explains why arthritis symptoms can be worse during cold weather. He also discusses the treatment options to relieve your pain and discomfort.
Joint pain during cold weather
There are different theories about why joint pain can be worse in cold weather, but no clear scientific explanation.
About 80 to 90% of people with arthritis could be sensitive to falling temperatures and air (barometric) pressure during the winter. The level of humidity (the amount of water vapour in the air) can also affect your joint symptoms.
Research shows that joint pain and stiffness are worse when there is a high level of humidity and low barometric pressure. 62% of women are sensitive to weather changes compared with 37% of men. Cold weather causes lower temperatures in the joints, which in turn increases stiffness.
As people are generally less active in winter, this can also make existing joint pain and stiffness worse.
Tips to manage joint pain
Here are practical tips to help you cope with joint pain and stiffness, which may affect you more during the winter months:
Keep active and warm
Exercise is one of the best things that you can do to improve your arthritis symptoms. It is a good idea to do at least 30 minutes of exercise five times a week that makes you a bit short of breath. Try keeping your knees warm with a neoprene (synthetic rubber) sleeve or knee wrap.
Maintain a healthy weight
Another important tip is to try and lose any excess weight. This helps to reduce the stress on your knees and to make your general lifestyle more healthy. Your doctor can give you advice on a suitable weight for your height and support you to lose weight safely. To reduce inflammation (swelling) in the body, it is best to avoid sugary, processed foods, and foods high in saturated fat.
You can find tips for eating a healthy, balanced diet on the NHS website.
Consider having knee joint injections
There are various non-surgical and surgical treatments that can help with knee arthritis. One non-surgical option is a hyaluronic acid injection (the procedure is also called viscosupplementation). This contains a gel-like substance, which supplements the hyaluronic acid naturally found in a healthy knee.
The injection of extra hyaluronic acid into the knee joint is thought to lubricate the cartilage (connective tissue). Oil lubricates an engine in a similar way. The knee bones can then move over each other more smoothly. A hyaluronic acid injection in the knee may give you pain relief for up to six months. You can ask your doctor whether they would recommend this treatment for you.
If other options do not help, talk to your doctor about knee replacement surgery
You do not necessarily need a knee replacement if you have arthritis. However, it may be worth considering if joint pain and stiffness seriously disrupt your daily activities.
At Parkside Private Hospital, we have a Stryker Mako robotic arm system. This is the latest technology that helps our consultant orthopaedic surgeons to perform joint replacements with pinpoint accuracy.
The Stryker Mako robotic arm system allows us to produce a personalised surgical plan based on a CT scan of your knee. Computer software uses the CT scan to create an exact 3D model of the knee joint.
The robot does not actually perform the surgery. It just assists and guides us to remove bone affected by arthritis. The surgeon can adjust your plan during the operation as needed and ensure that your new knee joint is placed in the best possible position.
About Mr Martin Goddard
Mr Martin Goddard is an experienced Consultant Knee Surgeon at Parkside Private Hospital. His specialist interests include all aspects of knee arthritis and knee replacement surgery.
You can read more about Mr Goddard and his expertise here. To book an appointment with Mr Goddard at Parkside Private Hospital, please call 020 3944 0568 or complete this form online.