Tag Archives: winter weather

True or False: Changes in the Weather Can Make Your Joints Stiff or Achy

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For many people, the flare-up of an arthritic knee or shoulder appears to signal a change in the weather—usually hinting that a storm is imminent.

The belief that achy joints accompany a weather change is so widespread, in fact, that it has just about been accepted as reality. Many doctors listen to patients complain that they experience stiff or aching joints before, during, or after changes in temperature, barometric pressure, or humidity.

Yet, in spite of the widespread belief in a connection between aches and pains and inclement weather, medical researchers have come up with little evidence to support it.

Evidence for the Health Claim
Changes in the weather such as barometric pressure, humidity, and temperature could theoretically affect the synovial fluid that lines and lubricates the joints if, for example, they had a chemical effect on the fluid which somehow increased inflammation (which causes pain). However, there is no conclusive evidence that supports this theory.

Since at least the mid-1800s, a number of medical, and so-called bio-meteorologic research studies have been carried out in an effort to establish a connection between health and changing weather conditions.

The results of these studies have been varied. Based primarily on a compilation of patient anecdotes (reports of arthritis sufferers, for instance), increased barometric pressure (in fair weather conditions) has been associated with increased joint pain. Conversely, others studies have shown a relationship between increased joint pain and decreased barometric pressure (in stormier weather). Still other studies have suggested that changing weather conditions can cause immediate pain in some patients and delayed pain in others.

weather changes

Evidence Against the Health Claim

It is important to note that because most studies on this subject have been based on anecdotal reports rather than carefully designed observational studies, their conclusions don’t constitute reliable scientific evidence. Furthermore, many doctors claim that the wide variety of arthritic conditions and sheer complexity of atmospheric variability makes coming up with meaningful connections between joint pain and weather conditions next to impossible.

There is also a psychological aspect to this belief. What are the chances that the connection between health and the weather is simply coincidental? Is it possible that arthritis sufferers link their stiff and achy joints to changes in the weather as a way of explaining an otherwise mysterious exacerbation of their condition? Some doctors suggest that patients who observe weather conditions when they experience pain may pay little or no attention to the weather when they don’t have any pain.

Furthermore, there is no definitive evidence that moving to a warmer or drier climate provides a cure for aching joints. Some doctors report that many patients claim that the pain disappears for a while, only to return a few months later.

by Rhianon Davies

REFERENCES:
Aches and Pains Index. UK Weather Channel Interactive Web site. Available at http://uk.weather.com/activities/health/achesandpains/achesandpainsindex.html. Accessed July 25, 2006.

Cold Weather Can Cause More Aches and Pains for Arthritis Sufferers. Marshall University Orthopaedics Web site. Available at http://musom.marshall.edu/medctr/orthopaedics/cold weather.asp. Accessed July 25, 2006

Shmerling RH. Whether Weather Matters For Arthritis. Available at http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/8799/9273/35323/341624.html?d=dmtHMSContent. Accessed July 25, 2006.

Weather and Joint Pain. Any Connection? Mayo Clinic Web site. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/joint-pain/AN00102. Accessed July 25, 2006.

Weather and Our Physical Health. BBC News Web site. Available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/weatherwise/living/effects/. Accessed July 25, 2006.

EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

PT News

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This Month in PT News. Featuring articles from PTandMe partnering clinics!

1. Simple Steps to Starting a Weight-Training Program
Written by the Therapy Team at The Jackson Clinics – Middleburg, VA

One of the challenges of weight training is determining how much effort to put in for the most benefits. Read more

2. Sit Up Straight! Avoid Sitting with Bad Posture
Written by Megan Russo, PTA at The Center for Physical Rehabilitation – CPR – Grand Rapids, MI

Do you ever find yourself sitting in a slumped position while at work or driving in the car? Read more

3. Minimizing the Risk of Ski Injury
Written by the Therapy Team at The Jackson Clinics – Middleburg, VA

If winter weather has you prepared to hit the slopes, be sure to take the necessary precautions to keep yourself injury-free this season. Read more

PT News

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This Month in PT News. Featuring articles from PTandMe partnering clinics!

2. Winter Activities Foster Year-Round Fitness
Written by the Therapy Team at the Jackson Clinics – Middleburg, VA

The urge to “hibernate” in winter is strong, even for us humans. Read more

3. Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions 
Written by Therapy Team at Momentum Physical Therapy – San Antonio, TX

2017 is almost here, and it’s the perfect time for assessing the year behind and looking forward to the changes we want to make in 2017. Read more

cold weather safety

Keeping Extremities Warm in Winter

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KeepingWarm_FBsize

OUTDOOR SAFETY
Highlights
• Dress warmly and stay dry.
• Wear a hat, scarf, and mittens.
• Avoid frostbite.
• If you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly.
• Avoid walking on ice or getting wet.
• Notify friends and family where you will be before you go hiking, camping, or skiing.
• Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads, overpasses, and bridges if at all possible.
• If you are stranded, it is safest to stay in your car.

When the weather is extremely cold, and especially if there are high winds, try to stay indoors. Make any trips outside as brief as possible, and remember these tips below to protect your health and safety.

DRESS WARMLY AND STAY DRY
Adults and children should wear:
• a hat
• a scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth
• sleeves that are snug at the wrist
• mittens (they are warmer than gloves)
• water-resistant coat and boots
• several layers of loose-fitting clothing

Be sure the outer layer of your clothing is tightly woven, preferably wind resistant, to reduce body-heat loss caused by wind. Wool, silk, or polypropylene inner layers of clothing will hold more body heat than cotton. Stay dry—wet clothing chills the body rapidly. Excess perspiration will increase heat loss, so remove extra layers of clothing whenever you feel too warm. Also, avoid getting gasoline or alcohol on your skin while de-icing and fueling your car or using a snow blower. These materials in contact with the skin greatly increase heat loss from the body. Do not ignore shivering. It’s an important first sign that the body is losing heat. Persistent shivering is a signal to return indoors.

AVOID FROSTBITE AND HYPOTHERMIA
When exposed to cold temperatures, your body begins to lose heat faster than it can be produced. Prolonged exposure to cold will eventually use up your body’s stored energy. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. Body temperature that is too low affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well. This makes hypothermia particularly dangerous because a person may not know it is happening and won’t be able to do anything about it.

Hypothermia is most likely at very cold temperatures, but it can occur even at cool temperatures (above 40°F) if a person becomes chilled from rain, sweat, or submersion in cold water.

Frostbite is an injury to the body that is caused by freezing. Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and color in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers, or toes. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, and severe cases can lead to amputation. The risk of frostbite is increased in people with reduced blood circulation and among people who are not dressed properly for extremely cold temperatures.

AVOID EXERTION
Cold weather puts an extra strain on the heart. If you have heart disease or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice about shoveling snow or performing other hard work in the cold. Otherwise, if you have to do heavy outdoor chores, dress warmly and work slowly. Remember, your body is already working hard just to stay warm, so don’t overdo it.

UNDERSTAND WIND CHILL
The Wind Chill index is the temperature your body feels when the air temperature is combined with the wind speed. It is based on the rate of heat loss from exposed skin caused by the effects of wind and cold. As the speed of the wind increases, it can carry heat away from your body much more quickly, causing skin temperature to drop. When there are high winds, serious weather-related health problems are more likely, even when temperatures are only cool.

AVOID ICE
Walking on ice is extremely dangerous. Many cold-weather injuries result from falls on ice-covered sidewalks, steps, driveways, and porches. Keep your steps and walkways as free of ice as possible by using rock salt or another chemical de-icing compound. Sand may also be used on walkways to reduce the risk of slipping.

snow war

BE SAFE DURING RECREATION
Notify friends and family where you will be before you go hiking, camping, or skiing. Do not leave areas of the skin exposed to the cold. Avoid perspiring or becoming overtired. Be prepared to take emergency shelter. Pack dry clothing, a two-wave radio, waterproof matches and paraffin fire starters with you. Do not use alcohol and other mood altering substances, and avoid caffeinated beverages. Avoid walking on ice or getting wet. Carefully watch for signs of cold-weather health problems.

BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT TRAVEL
• Listen for radio or television reports of travel advisories issued by the National Weather Service.
• Do not travel in low visibility conditions.
• Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads, overpasses, and bridges if at all possible.
• If you must travel by car, use tire chains and take a mobile phone with you.
• If you must travel, let someone know your destination and when you expect to arrive. Ask them to notify authorities if you are late.
• Check and restock the winter emergency supplies in your car before you leave.
• Never pour water on your windshield to remove ice or snow; shattering may occur.
• Don’t rely on a car to provide sufficient heat; the car may break down.
• Always carry additional warm clothing appropriate for the winter conditions.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU GET STRANDED
Staying in your vehicle when stranded is often the safest choice if winter storms create poor visibility or if roadways are ice covered. These steps will increase your safety when stranded:
• Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna as a signal to rescuers and raise the hood of the car (if it is not snowing).
• Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area.
• Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers.
• Stay awake. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems.
• Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe—this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
• As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve your circulation and stay warmer.
• Do not eat unmelted snow because it will lower your body temperature.
• Huddle with other people for warmth.

For more information about winter safety visit: http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/index.asp

For more PTandMe cold weather safety tips to keep you out of harm’s way this winter check the articles below!

snow shoveling safety PTandMe   Winter Safety PTandMe