Weather and Joint Pain: What’s the Link?

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You would have heard it many times – an elderly person predicting a change in weather just because their joints begin to ache. They say their joint pain or arthritis worsens every time the temperature drops.

In fact, the earliest observations go as back as 400 B.C. when Hippocrates noticed how certain illnesses were seasonal. Also, the medical term for rheumatism in Chinese, fengshi bing translates to ‘wind-damp disease’.

Though their predictions generally do turn out right, this is one topic that has seen its share of believers and nonbelievers. Human biometereology (or the science that studies the connection between people and atmospheric conditions) does work in cases like frostbite or sunstroke do you actually believe there is a connection between weather and joint pain?

What Research Says

Various kinds of studies have experimented and postulated theories on this topic. Let’s take a look:

  1. The leading theory on weather causing joint pain explores the role of air pressure. Air or barometric pressure is the weight that the atmosphere around places on us. A high air pressure pushes against the body and keeps the tissues surrounding the joint from expanding. On the other hand, a drop in air pressure, like just before a storm or cold weather, allows tissues around the joints to swell and irritate the nerves around, which can lead to pain.
  2. There are other studies that link worsening of arthritis pain with other atmospheric conditions like temperature and humidity. Changes in these conditions have also been linked to headaches, sinus, jaw pain, toothaches, pelvic pain, lower back pain, fibromyalgia, etc.

These theories also support a study by John Hollander that goes as back as 1960s, involving placing rheumatoid arthritis patients in a sealed chamber. A drop in air pressure and an increase in humidity led to an increase in stiffness and swelling of joints.

  1. Well, there’s a third possibility that some researchers believe could connect weather and pain, which is mood. Rainy or cold weather tends to make people feel gloomy, which could in turn make it more difficult or to bear pain or more susceptible to it.

Then again, not all scientists agree that weather causes joint pain, and these are plausible theories.

Finding Comfort

At the end of the day, there’s not much that can be done to change the weather, but taking certain precautions can make it more comfortable for people whose joints get affected by the change of season.

  • Stay warm through clothes, heating pads, etc.
  • Exercise to keep joints moving and preventing stiffness.
  • Keep your mood high.
  • Visit a warm climate for relief.

 


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Sources:

Image courtesy of [Stuart Miles] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Does Weather Affect Joint Pain?” WebMD.com, Katherine Kam, http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/features/weather_and_pain

“Do Your Aches, Pains Predict Rain?” MedicineNet.com, WebMD Feature, http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=52133

“How Your Knees Can Predict the Weather,” WSJ.com, October 14, 2013, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304500404579127833656537554

“The Weather and Arthritis: Does Rain Increase Pain?” Health.CleavelandClinic.org, June 14, 2012, http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2012/06/the-weather-and-arthritis-does-rain-increase-pain/

“Weather and Arthritis Pain,” ArthritisToday.org, Brenda Goodman, http://www.arthritistoday.org/about-arthritis/arthritis-pain/living-with-pain/weather-pain.php

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