Osteoarthritis Part 2: Prevention, treatment and cold weather
Prevention & Treatment
If muscular imbalances exist due to previous injury or repetitive poor postures and poor use of surrounding muscles, the chance of developing osteoarthritis (OA) is increased because of the increased load on the nearby joints.
Treatment by osteopathic practitioners aims to assess and solve issues with altered body structure, in order to improve overall body function.
Osteopathy & chiropractic treatment cannot cure OA, but it can help to reduce pain and improve the range of comfortable movement.
Consequently, not only will the problem be minimized, but the patient will be more able to move comfortably and continue with normal daily activity.
Our practitioners can help by easing the muscular tension surrounding joints affected with OA, greatly reducing the patient’s level of discomfort.
This can be achieved by massage, mobilisation of the joints, stretching, dry needling and at home exercise programs to help improve nutrition to the affected joints and promote healing.
We’ve all heard it and many of us have probably muttered it…
‘My joints feel worse in cold weather/everything aches more when It rains/that bone I broke years ago lets me know when the weather’s going to change’.
So is there any proven scientific association between the weather and clinical symptoms relating to OA?
In truth, no. No consistent association has been found to confirm that arthritis pain is affected by the weather.
Some studies have proposed that a drop in barometric pressure, which tends to accompany cooler, damper weather, could allow joints to swell and put pressure on nerves that control pain signals. This is suggestive of a correlation between barometric pressure & relative humidity influencing OA symptoms, however the findings are so modest that they cannot be considered to be clinically relevant.
A more likely reason for increased pain is that cooler weather triggers bodily changes, which have the side effect of amplifying pain signals from joints. A proven reason for this is that the nervous system is essentially "misbehaving"; pain signals travelling along nerves from the joints are amplified in the brain by signals carried on separate nerves called sympathetic nerves.
The sympathetic nerves are part of the body's system for maintaining internal functioning without us having to think about it. When it's cold, the nerves constrict blood vessels in the limbs, to minimise heat loss and help keep the core of the body warm. This increased activation of these nerves around joints in response to cold weather may lead to an increase in the pain a person feels.
Without doubt there are other factors that will impact on perceived pain during the cooler months. Shortened days and cool temperatures make us less inclined to be active. This immobility can make arthritis pain worse, as it reduces the flow of nutrients and oxygen to joints, as well as leading to increased stiffness in the muscles which attach around the joints.
A sizeable issue when investigating weather & OA are the sheer number of variables – what is considered cold in one region may not be cold to people in another, when testing it may not be as cold as usually anticipated for that time of year, or it may not rain as much.
So, irrespective of whether scientists find there's a direct effect of the weather on arthritis, the secondary effects of cold weather, such as reduced activity or low mood, are likely to make pain worse.
Our advice to our patients is to find an alternative way of staying active during the colder months, to help maintain the best joint and muscle function you can.
Book an appointment with Mia at Summer Hill Osteopathy to discuss treatment options that will suit your specific needs and ensure your joints function at their best all year round!
Read Part 1 in our Osteoarthritis series, Osteoarthritis:It's not Greek to Me
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