ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Doctors often hear more complaints from people who deal with pain from different types of arthritis and general wear and tear on our joints during the winter months and as storm systems approach. 

“Those storms coming and we don’t necessarily feel that pressure on all our senses, but those people with those joint problems can often tell,” said Rachel Tarr, PA-C, with SSM Health Medical Group. “That barometric pressure drops and they can feel it they can feel that knee that always acts up or they can feel it generally in their joints and it gives them the idea the weather’s changing.” 

Tarr said the pressure drop can cause the inside of the joint to swell up a little bit. 

“There’s something called synovial fluid which sort of bathes the insides of joints and that fluid can expand or shrink down and that changes the way a joint feels when you move it,” she said. 

The increase in pain can also be related to a person’s tolerance to cold weather. 

“When it gets cold they guard up, they get stiff, and that makes those joints obviously stiffer and not able to move as easily,” Tarr explained. “What people should do best is actually dress in layers. That’ll be less bulky, allow them to move better which will help that joint pain but it’s also going to help keep those insulated warm layers there.” 

Tarr says all kinds of arthritis respond to exercise. 

“Motion is lotion to those joints. So get going early. Then when it’s cold there’s no reason not to go outyou’re used to it,” she said. “I think a lot of people are intimidated by exercising outside and I think until those extreme temperatures come in, base layering and wearing gear on your hands and on your head. You can really stay outside safely for long parts of the winter.” 

But Tarr warns of the extreme cold we’ll inevitably face. 

“Those extreme temperatures, those single digits especially, people need to find alternatives if they really have not had experience exercising in those cold temps,” she said. “It’s not just exposed skin, it is breathing it in its then making it difficult to breathe adequately and it kind of just undermines a good exercise experience.”  

So to help alleviate some of those winter aches keep moving this winter as we see big pressure drops and strong storm systems roll through. 

“I do think there tends to be more of an awareness of those fronts coming in and those joints that will bark at you more in the winter than in the summer. We do hear them sometimes in those spring storms but it does seem like the cold combined with those front drops just really make people ache,” said Tarr.