When your great aunt once said she can “feel” a storm coming on, she may have been on to something! Weather forecasting through joint pain may actually have some validity.
The belief that weather can affect joint pain is widespread. Many medical studies have aimed to prove the direct connection between cold climates and pain; unfortunately, the evidence has been equivocal at best. However, there is seemingly endless anecdotal evidence that back up this belief.
So what exactly is the theorized link between weather and joint pain?
Barometric Pressure. When the barometric pressure, the weight of the air surrounding us, changes, it can cause our joints to swell. Barometric pressure usually drops before bad weather sets in, like the colder temperatures preceding a storm. Once the barometric pressure falls, the tissues inside your joints expand affecting the nerve endings. The nerve endings contain receptors, which fire up with small changes in pressure and eventually lead to increased pain and inflammation.
A recent study was done at Tufts University, which found that a 10-degree drop in temperature corresponded with an increase in arthritic pain. Additionally, low barometric pressures, low temperatures, and precipitation can increase pain and swelling.
Low barometric pressures, low temperatures, and precipitation can increase pain and swelling.
Cold climates and bad weather don’t cause arthritis or worsen the condition, however, it can affect how you feel. With that being said, moving to a location with warmer climates may result in less pain, but it won’t impact the course of the disease.
There are a few comfort measures that can be taken to find some relief when weather is affecting your joints.
- Stay warm. Dress with layers, keep your house heated, use a heating pad, and warm up your car before getting in.
- Control or prevent swelling. Use compression and elevation.
- Keep moving. Exercise your painful joints to loosen up the stiffness.\
- Improve your mood. Have something to keep your mind occupied so you can distract yourself from the pain. Anxiety and depression, especially with chronic pain, can only make matters worse.
- Realize that pain is temporary. Luckily, weather-related pain isn’t permanent. Therefore, acknowledging that the pain will improve when the weather changes can be reassuring.
When it comes time to a colder climate and your joints are feeling achy, don’t just brush it off as your imagination. As the winter season is upon us, s preventive measures and stay warm!