Why does cold weather increase joint pain?

Woman in park

It’s not just your imagination: cold weather can have a noticeable effect on joint pain and stiffness. Those with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) may feel more jaw pain, headaches, and other symptoms during certain weather conditions. But why does this happen, and what can you do to get relief?

Barometric Pressure and TMD

The barometric pressure is the weight of the air pressing on the earth. It can change with the moving of storm fronts, and many people notice increased joint pain when a storm is predicted to hit. This is most likely due to increased pressure in the fluid inside the joints, known as the synovium. The pressure may make the joints feel more achy or stiff.

If your jaw feels stiff or more painful than usual, keep a journal of weather and barometric pressure changes and see if it aligns with your symptoms.

Cold Temperatures and Joint Pain

Just like cold makes many things like food and liquids stiff and solid, it also causes joints to stiffen. The fluid inside the joints may actually thicken when exposed to cold temperatures. Then, the nerve endings inside the joint detect this change in fluid and may send signals of pain or soreness. For this reason, people with conditions like arthritis and TMD may find the winter months to be more difficult to manage.

Headaches and the Weather

Headaches are common in many TMD patients, and cold weather has been shown to aggravate headaches. Changes in barometric pressure, humidity, and temperature can trigger migraines in susceptible people, and those with allergies may notice sinus headaches. Increased pressure in the sinuses can lead to ear pressure and pain, which is another common symptom of TMD.

How to Cope with Weather Changes

Although the weather can aggravate TMD symptoms, there are some simple ways to get relief. Consider these home remedies for cold weather-related TMJ pain:

  • Use heat to your advantage. A heating pad or warm shower or bath can be soothing on cold days, and provides effective relief of stiff muscles and joints.

  • Manage your stress. If your stress levels are already high, the cold weather may simply increase your symptoms of TMD, such as jaw pain, tension headaches, and neck stiffness. Deep breathing aromatherapy, and meditation are all excellent ways to reduce stress and overall TMD symptoms, helping you manage your pain more effectively no matter what the weather.

  • Get allergies under control. If changes in the weather are causing you to sneeze, sniff, and cough, your jaw may be feeling the effects. Allergies can cause headaches and ear pain, and can further aggravate an inflamed temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Talk with your doctor about effective allergy relief methods that may work for you, including saline nasal spray and antihistamines.

Don’t dread the winter because of your TMD! Find out how you can manage your symptoms year round – schedule your appointment with MedCenter TMJ today!


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