Arthritis and cold weather: Debunking the medical myth

By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Jan 05 2011 05:12 PM | Updated as of Jan 06 2011 01:55 AM

MANILA, Philippines - With the cold months setting in post-holiday, or the rains, could it come with the usual aches and pains, the condition referred to in the vernacular as "rayuma" in the old?

But while "rayuma" is generally used to describe anything that causes body aches and pains, medically it is limited to the joint.

Cold weather and arthritis

"Assuming cold weather does affect arthritis or make it worse, then those in the tropics should not be affected by arthritis as much as those who live in temperate countries," said Dr. Emmanuel Asedillo, orthopedic surgeon at The Medical City, on [email protected] this week.

"Recent studies conducted in Northern Argentina and South Florida dealt with older people and found out that there's no correlation with the weather. They think it's mostly because of the change in humidity, and change in pressure," he added.

Asedillo said that theoretically, when the barometric pressure drops, it allows fluid to get into the tissues, thereby causing swelling and more pain. But he added that nothing is proven.

What is taken as fact, though, is that arthritis is a condition that affects the joint, any moving part of the body, the spine, the hinge of the jaw, knees, hips, hands, and where inflammation of the joint causes pain.

The word arthritis comes from the Greek work "arthron" meaning "joint" and the Latin "itis" meaning inflammation. The pain in the joints renders people with arthritis virtually helpless.

Arthritis can prevent sufferers from engaging in their regular activities, and limit their interaction with the family.

Doctors said that as soon as telltale signs manifest, it is best to immediately seek treatment.

Short of surgery and physical therapy to increase strength of muscles and motion of joints, Asedillo said injecting the joints with hyaluronic acid, a special lubricant known to improve joint function, may also help in treatment.

Arthritis types, causes

The most common cause of the condition, said Asedillo, is degenerative, the wear and tear of the joints. But while a lot of old people have it, he added, age is not the cause of arthritis even if it is associated with age. A lot of old people, he said, have no arthritis.

The common types include osteoarthritis or when the cartilage loses its elasticity, and rheumatoid arthritis, which involves an inflammatory form of arthritis.

He, however, added that some forms of arthritis are due to infection or an immune problem.

When bacteria enters the joints, it damages the cartilage. And because there's no blood supply in the cartilage, there's no way to get the cartilage back to its old shape. People can only keep the arthritis from progressing, he said.

Gout from uric acid is another cause of the condition. It usually happens when the body can't process uric acid, usually from the diet. It is known to affect mainly males, as early as their late teens.

People with post-traumatic injuries, like those who engaged heavily in sports and those who damaged their joints in a vehicular accident, are also prone to this condition.

"Running per se will not damage the joint. It may damage the joint especially with the wrong technique or if you try to get into it too fast. It may affect you in the future but not immediately unless you have a previous problem with it," Asedillo said.