Air conditioning is the undefeated champion in relieving heat during hot and humid seasons. But some people claim it can cause stiffness, aches, and pain in the joints. Are such claims legitimate?
Can air conditioning cause joint pain? If yes, how can you stop your AC from triggering these joint discomforts?
Read on to find out whether there is a link between air conditioning and joint pain.
Does Air Conditioning Cause Joint Pain?
Air conditioning may lead to painful joints due to:
- Cold temperatures make your blood vessels constrict, reducing the blood flow. When blood circulation is limited, it leads to resistance to bend, intense aches, and soreness in the joints. Existing arthritis can also be aggravated if the cold air is not managed correctly;
- The barometric pressure in a cold environment is low, causing the tissues around your joints to expand, putting increased pressure on the joints, and triggering pain;
- Cooler indoor weather may increase the thickness of the synovial (or joint) fluid in one’s body making joints stiffer and harder to bend;
- Conditioned air caused some people to have a sedentary lifestyle. Limited physical activity may contribute to muscle pain and joint disintegration.
What are the Root Causes of Joint Pains?
Joint pain is the discomfort you typically feel in your hands, spine, hips, knees, or feet. The agony can range from spasms or cramps to a throbbing, burning, or “grating” feeling in the bones.
There is a long list of medical conditions with joint pain as a symptom. But we can categorize them into three main groups: inflammation, injury or other infections, and normal wear and tear.
The term “arthritis” is generally used interchangeably with joint pain. But arthritis can come in many forms. One common type is inflammation or painful swelling of the lining (synovial membrane) of the joint capsule.
Inflammation of the joints can present as the following:
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition where your body attacks your healthy cells and tissues which can lead to inflammation of the joints
- Gout is the swelling of the joints caused by too much uric acid in the body. It affects one joint at a time during “flare” periods.
- Childhood arthritis or juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) causes swollen joints in children with no known cause or cure.
Injury and Infection
A physical trauma prompted by either impact, violence, or accident can lead to temporary or permanent joint pains. The medical community sometimes refers to joint pain originating from an injury as post-traumatic arthritis that may be influenced by a bone fracture or dislocation.
Viral and bacterial infections can also lead to joint pains. When you contract a common cold, for example, your body works hard to fight the infection but causes inflammation and tenderness in the joints and muscle pains in the process. Bacterial joint inflammation, also known as septic arthritis, results in sudden cartilage degeneration and bone damage.
Wear and Tear
Finally, the most prevalent source of joint pain is osteoarthritis (OA). Otherwise known as a degenerative joint disease because it progresses with age and normal wear and tear. Some known risk factors are obesity, race, and family history of OA.
How Do AC and Temperature Impact Your Joints?
Now that we have determined the chronic and natural causes of joint pains, we can set those aside and turn to the hot topic of whether the use of air conditioning can lead to joint discomfort.
The truth is, it has been debated for a long time whether changes in air temperature, especially the rush of cold air from the AC can cause joint aches or arthritis pain.
On one hand, the relationships between changes in weather patterns, air conditioning, and joint pain are still vague and unsupported by actual published studies. What researchers have established is that the human body can acclimatize to its ambient temperature. This adaptability of our bodies to hot or cold weather seems to disprove the effect of air conditioning on joint pain.
On the other hand, sufferers of joint pains could have sworn that they can immediately detect weather changes as their joints feel so much worse when it is getting cold.
A 2007 study attempted to explain this phenomenon by relating the changes in barometric pressure and relative humidity in joint pains of 200 participants with arthritis. Although the samples are relatively small, proponents of the research found that there is a direct correlation between lower barometric pressure and ambient temperature and the severity of joint pains.
How to Prevent Arthritis Caused by Air Conditioning
While some people claim that air conditioning can bring about joint pain, research on the topic is limited. However, air conditioning can affect the body in various ways, including the joints, muscles, and tendons.
By understanding the potential impact of air conditioning on joint health, individuals can take steps to prevent and manage joint pain.
Here are some tips to prevent joint pain caused by air conditioning:
- Don’t situate yourself too close to the air conditioner. The direct stream of cold air from the AC may make your muscles and joints stiffen leading to pain. Be on guard especially with window air conditioners as they are designed to cool a single room only so standing, sitting, or lying next to one may trigger aches in your joints.
- Limit your exposure to air conditioning if you have existing arthritis. While the medical community remains hushed about the true impact of air conditioning and joint pains, we can glean an idea from how cold air can restrict blood circulation and possibly cause joint and muscle discomfort. Try increasing the temperature of your AC and see if your symptoms cease.
- Keep your thermostat set to a moderate and pleasant level. Blasting your home with cold air may sap out the much-needed moisture in the air, while neglecting to use your AC may put you at risk of high humidity and heat-related illnesses. It is hinted in clinical studies that high humidity sets off arthritis and that the use of air conditioners can lessen its impact on joint aches.
- Stay active and hydrated. Staying too long in an air-conditioned space may make you not want to go out in the sun and do physical activities, but resist the temptation! Your joints should engage in low-impact exercises such as walking, biking, and swimming. Also, steer clear of dehydration by drinking lots of fluids if you have the air conditioning on. Water is the best natural remedy for easing joint pain symptoms and is beneficial for your overall health.
Consult your doctor. Arthritis, joint pain, and muscle and bone discomforts can be excruciating. If your aches persist despite using air conditioning in a balanced way, your physician may recommend other pain management techniques and medical interventions.