Is the Summer Heat Affecting Your Joints?

Last updated on October 18th, 2023 at 05:43 pm

Remember when you were young and could move your joints with ease? Now that you’re older, you may be noticing that your joints don’t work as well in summer heat.

Knowing how to handle joint discomfort is important, especially in warmer weather. Learn why the summer heat may affect your joints and what you can do to get relief.

Anatomy of a joint

Whether it’s your hip, knee or elbow, all your joints have fluid in them. It’s a gel-like substance called synovial fluid. This is almost like an oil that lubricates your joints and keeps them moving smoothly.

Temperature and humidity levels can change the level or thickness of fluid that fills your joints. Therefore, the synovial fluid in your joints can get inflamed due to weather. Your joints start feeling like they can’t move as well or they’re stiff. Inflammation of the joints becomes more common the older you get.

Why weather affects joints

Temperature changes affect how your joints feel and work. In the summer, humidity can be a factor for a few reasons:

  • Tendons, ligaments and muscles expand in humid weather.
  • Hot weather can keep you from moving around. This inactivity stiffens your joints.
  • Joints with worn cartilage may have exposed nerves that react to changes in the air pressure around you.
  • Humidity causes your body to lose water through sweat. This may reduce the fluid around your joints and cause pain.

Not every person has joint challenges in the hot weather. Many people have joint issues when temperatures drop or it’s damp and rainy. Other people feel at their best in cool, dry weather. It all depends on your own body and how your joints react to temperature changes.

Keeping joints comfortable

If you’re having joint discomfort in the summer, there are easy ways to feel better. All it takes is a few tweaks to your lifestyle and your joints will thank you.

  • Hydrate: Water and sports drinks maintain fluid in your joints to keep them moving.
  • Apply OTC creams: Arthritis creams and anti-inflammatory medications can ease joint pain.
  • Get dressed: Wearing loose and natural fiber clothing allows your joints to move freely while keeping you cool.
  • Relax in cool air: Stay indoors in air conditioning. This limits your time in the humid air that can cause joint pain. The cooler air can reduce your joint inflammation.
  • Swim: Swimming cools your body’s core, including your joints. It’s also a low-impact cardio exercise. Most importantly, the buoyancy of water relieves pressure on your joints.

When to see your provider

If you have unbearable joint pain, talk with your primary care provider. They may want to do some tests. If your joints are painful, swollen, warm to the touch or making your daily activities difficult to do, make an appointment. Waiting to see a health care professional may cause more damage to your joints.

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