Why do my joints hurt more in summer?
Research shows that weather can influence joint pain. A 2011 review, for example, concluded that weather changes significantly influenced symptoms of arthritis sufferers, though to what extent varied significantly between individuals.2
Although joint pain is more often associated with chilly weather, summer can also have an effect. So, why is this the case?
- Activity levels
- Water intake
If you note a difference in your joint pain in summer, it could be to do with a change in your habits.
When the weather is good, we are often tempted to exercise more than usual. Whilst this should definitely be encouraged, it can put more strain on the joints (particularly walking or running which put the joints under impact).
Nice weather can also persuade us to do more than the body is used to. So, you might go for a morning cycle followed by a spot of gardening in the afternoon. Again, this added movement can trigger a flare-up in pain.
Whilst many of us choose to get more active in summer, for others it is the perfect opportunity to relax on a sun lounger or to read undisturbed in the garden. If you are moving less than normal, and particularly if you are spending long hours at a time without getting up, this will cause the joints to stiffen up and become more painful.
2. Meal times
When its sunny we are more likely to spend time in our gardens having a cocktail or two. This can be problematic for the joints as alcohol itself is inflammatory, whilst drinks like cocktails can also be high in sugar which only adds to these effects.
BBQs are also popular at this time, with sausages and burgers a favourite for grilling out on the patio. However, meats and processed foods are also inflammatory.3 If these are your go-to during summer, it could hint at why your joint pain is suddenly worse.
Some research has also indicated that cooking meat at a high temperature, as we may do on a charcoal-fed BBQ, produces higher levels of compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs).4 High levels of AGEs are problematic as they too trigger inflammatory processes in the body.
Summer may also bring about a change in your snacking habits. Instead of going for your usual tea or soft drink, perhaps you opt for an ice-cold fizzy juice. Maybe you've ditched the fruit for ice-cream.
Sugar is, as I've mentioned already, quite inflammatory so it can be problematic if our diet suddenly includes more of it. Fizzy juice is also high in phosphoric acid which, over time, can affect the body's ability to absorb calcium.
4. Water intake
Dehydration is more likely when it's warmer. Sufficient water intake is very important for joint health so not getting enough can have an effect on pain.
Water can stimulate the production of synovial fluid, for example, which reduces friction between two bones at a joint. It is also known to help with inflammation and may encourage the growth of new cells in the cartilage tissues.
The colour of urine indicates how dehydrated (or not) you are. A darker shade suggests you aren't getting enough so a light shade is what you want.
Finally, the temperature itself can influence pain.
A study undertaken in 2014 revealed a connection between heat and joint pain. Here, nearly 5% of participants suffering from osteoarthritis found their pain worsened during warm weather.5
One reason for this may be that temperature changes influence how the ligaments and tendons expand and contract.
What can you do about joint pain in summer?
Ok, this all sounds like I want you to take out all the fun bits of summer in order to ease your joint pain but that is certainly not the case! With a few simple alterations to your summer habits, you could see improvements to your achy joints.
So, what can you do?
Pick the right kind of exercise for you
Cycling is a good option for sufferers of joint pain as it doesn't put much impact on the joints – it's a steady movement instead. Walking long distances can be hard on the joints so keep to short walks, and perhaps avoid hilly areas if possible. Gentle stretching and massaging of the knee can also bring about relief.
Stay hydrated! I really can't emphasise this one enough. Keep a bottle with you out in the garden or when you are exercising. If you are having alcohol, which is dehydrating, make sure to drink more water than normal.
If you want a refreshing and nutritionally beneficial drink, try one of our smoothies instead of fizzy juice. When it's hot I recommend whizzing up some ice and adding this to the drink to keep you cool and hydrated.
Fresh fruit is at its best in summer so make the most of this! Vitamin C is very important for joint pain and inflammation so get stocked up on strawberries, blackcurrants and kiwis. You can take a look at my blog 'Top 3 fruits for muscle and joint health' to find other good options to try!
Also, I recommend trying homemade ice cream or sorbet for a refreshing summer snack. Banana, in particular, can easily be made into ice cream. It contains both magnesium and potassium which are beneficial for joint health.
Healthy Banana Ice Cream Recipe!
1. Simply chop up four bananas, place in a container and freeze overnight.
2. When you fancy your ice-cream, pour the frozen banana into a blender along with 3-4 tablespoons of almond milk (or another alternative milk of your choice).
3. Once the mixture is smooth, put into a bowl and top with some nuts of your choice. Hazelnuts and walnuts are nice.
Cook fresh, unprocessed foods on the BBQ. You might want to have less of the sausages and burgers and try more fish instead. It has omega 3 and anti-inflammatory benefits. Vegetable kebabs are also delicious when toasted on the BBQ and provide additional nutritional benefits to aid the joints.
Summer salads are another option as these really light, tasty and nutritious. Try adding in some nuts, seeds and fruit here to bump up the anti-inflammatory benefits.
Check out our recipes to get started.