Does your joint pain feel worse when the weather is bad?
No, you're not imagining it...research shows that your joint pain may truly be weather-related.
Studies on weather and joint pain
A 2007 Tufts University study found that every 10-degree drop in temperature corresponded with an incremental increase in osteoarthritis pain. It also found that relatively low barometric pressure, low temperatures, and precipitation can also increase pain.
Another study of 151 people conducted at Centro Reumatológico Strusberg in Cordoba, Argentina, in 2002 found that people with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia reported more pain on cold days. People with rheumatoid also reported more pain on days with high humidity and high pressure.
This confirms what many patients say anecdotally about the links between arthritis and weather. Pain expert and Harvard Medical School Professor, Robert Jamison, carried out a study on weather and arthritis, and discovered that 67.9 percent of the people surveyed responded that they were sure changes in the weather had an effect on their pain."
How barometric pressure affects joint pain
The culprit is a change in barometric pressure. Barometric pressure (atmospheric pressure) is the force exerted onto a surface by the weight of the atmosphere at any given point.
A drop in air pressure (which comes along with cold, rainy weather) may allow tissues in the body to expand putting pressure on the nerves that control pain signals. This means that our already inflamed tissue will have even more joint swelling and pain.
"It doesn't take much expansion or contraction of tissue to affect a pain trigger," Jamison said.
On top of that, pain receptors can be more sensitive in cold weather, and blood may not circulate as effectively.
Is a hot dry climate better for joint pain?
Moving to a hot dry climate sounds like a tempting solution, but barometric pressures changes still occur in dry locations, plus our bodies quickly adapt, and patients in dry climates still report pain related to weather changes.
Having said that - knowledge is power, and it pays to be prepared *before* the weather changes, especially when there are incoming storms. Make sure your heating is ready for winter (get boiler insurance if you don't already have it) and don't skimp on your heating bill.
So, enjoy the sun whilst it lasts... but don't be caught out when temps start to drop.