We’ve all been there, sitting around with clear, blue skies when good ‘ol Aunt Em starts whining about her arthritis flaring up and her joints becoming painful and stiff. She lets everyone know that bad weather is upon us with confidence. You swear the weatherman said it was going to be a glorious afternoon, but lo and behold, Auntie is right. Drops of rain start sprinkling down just minutes later, and a full storm is about to let loose. How does she know this? Is it possible her joints are a better indicator of weather than the news? Let’s find out!
Research and studies have shown that indeed, arthritis can flare up with change in temperature or barometric pressure. There is likely some link between pain and changes in weather.
One such study from Tufts University in 2007 showed some interesting correlation between arthritis pain and weather. They found that every 10 degree drop in temperature was associated with increased arthritis pain in the patients they studied. Additionally, just low barometric pressure or low temperatures had shown to increase pain.
So What Causes This Phenomenon?
While there has been no hard evidence to explain this phenomenon, it is likely that changes in the atmospheric pressure increase swelling in the joint capsule. Now, some people will complain of more arthritic pain when it is colder, rainy, windy or snowy. Some people will be adamant that their pain changes with temperature, but that may not be completely true. Studies show that barometric pressure is the most likely culprit.
What is Barometric Pressure?
Barometric pressure is the actual weight of the atmosphere that surrounds us. If the joints do in fact swell up before a storm hits, that is because the barometric pressure drops at this time. With less pressure in the atmosphere, it also means less air pressure pushing against the body. This then gives way for tissues to expand, and therefore causing the tissues to put pressure on the already arthritic joint.
What About Other Pain?
The same is true for other types of chronic pain. Changes in the atmospheric pressure may also make nerves more sensitive if they’ve been injured or had previous scarring, adhesions or inflammation.
Should I move?
If you are not already a resident of the dry desert of Arizona, many chronic pain sufferers wonder if moving will help their situation. There is this theory that people believe that there are places where the weather has less dramatic changes might help reduce chronic pain. The truth is you will likely still have pain no matter where you live. We certainly would love to have you here in the great state of Arizona, but don’t bank on it solving your pain problems. However, there is no snow to shovel or ice to scrape in the Phoenix area, so maybe you might be to your advantage anyway.
However, the connection between weather changes and joint pain is still considered hypothetical. This is mostly due to mixed conclusions, as some patients have reported no pain during barometric pressure changes at all.
How Do I Get Comfortable?
If you suffer from arthritis or chronic pain, the only way to combat barometric pressure is to find ways to comfort yourself from your pain. If you are noticing more pain during these times, try these ways of getting comfy:
- Increasing your pain medication (as advised by your doctor only)
- Warmth: applying heat to joints can help with pain
- Get moving: exercise can also help loosen joints up and prevent stiffness
- Mood: improving your mood can also help to shake some pain. When you let your brain take over, it can override the sensations pain can also cause like anxiety and depression
The Truth About Pain and Weather
The good news here is that this pain is temporary. For most people, this pain will be short-lived and eventually dissipate. In fact, your body will adjust to the changes caused by barometric pressure. Your body will move fluid from the joint into circulation. This should help you feel a little less achy and stiff. Rest assured, your body knows what it’s doing and doesn’t want to be in pain either.
Next time Aunt Em starts predicting a storm is brewing, you might just want to listen to what she has to say. Although joint pain is not an official indicator of changes in weather, there might just be a little truth in it. There are definitely some people who can predict weather according to their joint pain.
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