Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
Resources
About myRAteam

Is It Normal for Bones to Feel Cold and Painful With Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Posted on April 21, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Article written by
Sarah Winfrey

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the joints and throughout the body as well as different kinds of pain and other sensations. Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell what “normal” symptoms of RA feel like. You may wonder whether it is normal for your bones to hurt and feel cold.

In this article, we take a look at this particular symptom of RA, including what it feels like, when it tends to occur, and how it can be managed.

What Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Pain Feel Like?

People with RA pain typically have joint pain. The way this pain manifests, however, can vary from person to person or even day to day.

Members of myRAteam have described their RA pain in many different ways. “I get a very sharp stabbing pain that increases very quickly,” wrote a member, “and I cannot move or walk and meds don’t help.” Another added, “It feels like a little man is hitting my shin bone with a hammer, and the pain is very intense. It tingles down to my foot and toes. It hurts to walk.”

This bone pain can occur throughout different parts of the body. “My feet and leg bones hurt so bad that I just want to scream,” said one member. “Standing for more than a minute is so painful.” Another reported experiencing similar pain, writing, “I have been having pain in my leg bones. I told my family doctor it feels like someone has a nutcracker on my legs.”

Sometimes, members experience pain or coldness that seems to come from their bones. One member asked, “Does anyone ever feel like inside your bones are ice cold, followed by sharp pains?”

“Yes,” replied another member, “I get that, too. It seems to be worse at night for some reason. Causes a lot of sleepless nights.” Another member reported having similar sensations: “It feels like my arms and legs get cold and they hurt!”

A few myRAteam members reported that this symptom coincided with colder weather. “That happens to me a lot,” replied one, “especially in winter.” Another member answered that they feel painful cold in their bones, but “only when I’m in very cold weather. Keeping warm helps me.”

What Causes Cold, Painful Bones in Rheumatoid Arthritis?

A person with RA may experience sharp, cold, or stabbing pain in their bones for several reasons:

  • Joint issues — RA affects the lining of the joints
  • Structural damage to the bones — RA can cause bones to wear down
  • Cold weather — Can cause the synovial fluid to become thicker
  • Genes — Certain genes lead to an increase in inflammation

RA affects the joints, which are places where two bones meet. Each bone is covered by a layer of slippery cartilage, and it is all held in position by the synovium (protective tissue that lines the joints). This lining between the joints is filled with a fluid that helps lubricate and separate the bones. Swelling from RA stretches the synovium, filling it with fluid and causing potential problems, all of which can be painful.

In other cases, RA pain is caused by structural damage to the bones caused by the disease. For example, RA can cause bones to wear down, which could lead to sharp bone pain. RA can also cause swelling in the ligaments and tendons, which connect bone to bone and bone to muscle. If these ligaments and tendons swell and cause joint damage or pull on the bones they are attached to, that may also cause sharp bone pain.

RA pain that worsens in the cold may be due to other reasons. Colder weather can cause the synovial fluid to thicken, which might make painful joints even more swollen and cause additional pain. Genes that lead to an increase in inflammation are also more active in the winter, so cold weather could cause additional pain that way, too.

How To Manage Pain and Cold Sensations Related to RA

You have several options for managing sensations of cold and pain that seem to come from the bones:

  • Treat your RA effectively — Your doctor will help you figure out the best treatment option for you
  • Have another pain medication handy — Try Tylenol
  • Stay warm — Blankets and space heaters may help
  • Keep vitamin D levels high — Raising vitamin D levels may help you feel better

If you experience sensations of cold and pain that seem to come from your bones, be sure to talk to your rheumatologist. They can provide medical advice on adjusting your treatment or adding new pain management techniques for you to try.

Treat Your RA Effectively

The first step to managing RA pain is to get the disease under control. There are several medications used to treat RA and reduce flare-ups, from nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen or naproxen) to disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs to biologics (like methotrexate) and more. Your doctor will help you determine which of these RA treatment options might be right for you.

Pain Relievers for Acute Pain

Even when taking a regular treatment for RA, bone pain and discomfort may break through. Fortunately, there are ways to handle this pain.

One approach is to have another pain medication on standby. This medication may be something available over the counter, like Tylenol — as one member wrote, “If the pain is really bad, I will also take a Tylenol, wait 45 minutes, and take a second one if it is still hurting.” Make sure you talk to your doctor before adding any medications to your regimen.

Stay Warm

Whether you are actually cold or are experiencing sensations of extreme cold, getting warm might help your joints and the tissues around them feel better.

Several members recommend keeping warm to help stave off bone pain and coldness. As one explained, “I usually either take a long hot shower and/or drink a cup of hot tea, which seems to help. Not to mention, I always have my trusty throw that I wrap up in!” Another member wrote, “I bought one of those heating blankets, and it really helped me. Try drinking something warm… that helps, too.”

Another member shared, “I keep a small space heater for my feet, and I always have some of the fingerless gloves with me in the winter. I have short ones and a pair that go up my arm. I found this has helped me keep my hands warm and less achy. A friend made me a bag with rice in it that I can warm up and use when I am really cold. My electric blanket is a must in the winter when we are watching TV. I also made sure my car had seat warmers, and that has really helped me out.”

These approaches may be particularly helpful when combined with pain relievers. As one member wrote, “I have to take pain meds and get warm under blankets.”

Keep Vitamin D Levels High

If you experience severe bone pain and cold sensations, check your vitamin D levels. People who are deficient in this vitamin often have more severe manifestations of RA and other rheumatic diseases and may also be more sensitive to pain.

If your levels are low, your doctor may recommend taking vitamin D supplements, ask you to try cod liver oil, or talk to you about supplementing your diet with foods high in vitamin D. Raising vitamin D levels may help you feel significantly better.

Some medications used to treat RA may also deplete the body of certain vitamins. Talk to your health care provider if you’re concerned about this issue.

Find Your Team Today

On myRAteam, the social network for people with rheumatoid arthritis and their loved ones, more than 187,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their experiences with others who understand life with RA.

What does RA pain feel like for you? Do you have any remedies to recommend? Share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below or by posting on myRAteam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

Related articles

Methotrexate is one of the most commonly prescribed — and most effective — disease-modifying...

How To Manage Mouth Sores From Methotrexate

Methotrexate is one of the most commonly prescribed — and most effective — disease-modifying...
The Wim Hof Method (WHM) is a health and wellness practice developed by a Dutch extreme athlete...

Can the Wim Hof Method Help Manage RA Symptoms?

The Wim Hof Method (WHM) is a health and wellness practice developed by a Dutch extreme athlete...
Discover what those with rheumatoid arthritis shouldn't eat and why. Click here for tips on avoiding inflammatory foods.

Foods To Avoid With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Discover what those with rheumatoid arthritis shouldn't eat and why. Click here for tips on avoiding inflammatory foods.
Joint pain, mobility problems, and other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can make full- or...

Getting Disability Benefits for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Joint pain, mobility problems, and other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can make full- or...
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved a second COVID-19 booster shot...

RA and Second COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots: What To Know

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved a second COVID-19 booster shot...
If you’re living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you’re already aware of the impact the condition...

5 Ways To Get Involved With Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness

If you’re living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you’re already aware of the impact the condition...

Recent articles

If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you may have heard about kratom — an herbal supplement...

Kratom for Rheumatoid Arthritis: Is It Safe and Can It Help?

If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you may have heard about kratom — an herbal supplement...
When most people think of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), they imagine joint pain affecting the wrists...

Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Cause Tailbone Pain?

When most people think of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), they imagine joint pain affecting the wrists...
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in your joints and...

Tingling and Numbness: Is It a Side Effect of Methotrexate for RA?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in your joints and...
Some people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) seek to supplement their RA treatment regimens with...

Vitamin B12 Supplements: Are They Safe and Beneficial for RA?

Some people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) seek to supplement their RA treatment regimens with...
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes significant pain throughout the body. Many researchers...

Rheumatoid Arthritis vs. Fibromyalgia: What’s the Difference?

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes significant pain throughout the body. Many researchers...
Most people know rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as a joint condition, but it can affect other parts of...

Secondary Sjögren’s Syndrome: How RA Can Affect the Eyes

Most people know rheumatoid arthritis (RA) as a joint condition, but it can affect other parts of...
myRAteam My rheumatoid arthritis Team

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close