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Does Cold Weather REALLY Make Arthritis Worse?

Does Cold Weather REALLY Make Arthritis Worse?

Daily Mail UK

December 21, 2009

A common misconception about arthritis is that it is an inevitable part of ageing. In fact, while osteoarthritis (OA) – the most common form of the disease – does tend to affect older people, it is not caused by ageing and it does not affect everyone. And there are increasing numbers of younger sufferers.

OA affects 8.5million people in the UK, making it the country’s most prevalent joint disease and the main cause of hip and knee replacements. It is more prevalent in women than men, and usually develops in the over-50s.

The condition causes damage to the cartilage (the smooth, protective, gristle-like substance that lines the bones and allows the joints to move easily) and underlying bone.

When the cartilage deteriorates, the bone underneath thickens and the bones of the joint rub together, causing pain, inflammation and the development of knobbly-looking bony growths, called osteophytes, around the edge of the joints.

At the same time, the joint lining, which is usually as thin as cling film, becomes much thicker and inflamed, and the amount of lubricating fluid can increase, making the joint painful, swollen and stiff to move.

The condition usually develops gradually over many years before symptoms appear and can occur in just one joint, but it normally affects several joints, most commonly the knees, hips, spine and the hands.

Feet, especially big toes, and shoulders, may also be affected. The main symptom is joint pain, and those with OA often feel worse at the end of the day, or after prolonged weight bearing. Some sufferers have few symptoms, while others find that it causes severe pain and/or restricted movement.

Here, Philip Conaghan, professor of musculoskeletal medicine at the University of Leeds, debunks myths about the condition.

MYTH: Jogging will lead to osteoarthritis in later life.

FACT: ‘Normal exercising does not cause arthritis,’ says Prof Conaghan. ‘However, very sporty people, who may suffer injuries to their joints, tend to develop OA because of exercise. No matter what level of exercise you do, if you injure a joint you should be careful to rehabilitate properly. Pulling or clicking your thumbs doesn’t cause arthritis either. But those who have hypermobility syndrome (also known as being double-jointed) may be more at risk.’

MYTH: The weather makes osteoarthritis worse.

FACT: ‘Many claim that arthritis gets worse when the atmospheric pressure falls, just before it rains,’ says Prof Conaghan. ‘But scientific trials have failed to prove this. There is no evidence to show weather or climate has any effect on arthritis. OA occurs all over the world, in all types of climates.’

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