Beat the Heat (and Your Joint Pain) This Summer

Think those summer thunderstorms are to blame for your joint pain flare-ups? While many people do notice increased aches and pains on rainy days, additional research now points to hot temperatures and high humidity levels as the real culprit.

How summer heat and humidity affect joints
It’s something arthritis-sufferers already know. All the tissues in the body contain nerve endings, and when pressure changes occur, you’re likely to feel that additional pressure in the form of tightness, stiffness or pain in the joints.

That means weather conditions involving high humidity and low barometric pressure — such as those before a storm — can cause uncomfortable pressure in knee, hip and other joints. This happens when tendons, ligaments and muscles expand, causing those already-sensitive joints to become irritated.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
With increased summer temperatures and outdoor activities comes increased water loss — through sweating and evaporation — as the body works to stay cool. By now, we all know the critical role hydration plays in overall health. Water optimizes blood pressure, regulates body temperature, aids in digestion and lubricates joints.

Keep reaching for your water bottle on hot days and help protect your joints from:

  • Dehydration — The joint cartilage in our bodies has a high water content. When your body loses fluid through sweating and is not replenished, you may become dehydrated. Dehydration decreases the concentration of fluid in the joints, agitating existing joint pain conditions that are already present.
  • Inflammation — High temperatures can also cause fluctuations in fluid levels, which can lessen lubrication of the joints, thereby increasing inflammation and pain.

Beat the heat
There will be days when you just can’t escape the heat and humidity. If you do notice an uptick in joint aches, stiffness and/or inflammation during those hot and humid stretches, here are a few things you can do to ease chronic pain (and maximize your summer fun):

  • Cool it. It seems like a no-brainer, but staying indoors as much as possible — in the air conditioning or with fans running — during the hottest part of the day helps keep your body temperature down. If possible, shift your outdoor activities and exercise to evening hours, when it’s cooler.
  • Stay hydrated. It’s worth repeating: It’s so important to stay hydrated, especially during the summer when your body requires a higher water intake to function properly. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, muscle cramps, headaches and — of course — joint pain.

Comfort is key. If you participate in outdoor activities such as hiking or camping, plan ahead to “pamper” your joints as much as possible. Whether that means carrying a misting fan, extra sun shades or other provisions to help stay cool, your joints will thank you.

We can help

If your joint pain is getting worse, it may be time to see a doctor. The Capital Ortho musculoskeletal experts can help. Give us a call at 515-440-2676.