You're not alone if you've ever heard someone say, "I can feel it in my bones - bad weather is coming." Many people report that their joint pain 一 whether from arthritis, injury, or overuse 一 worsens during certain weather conditions like cold and damp weather. This belief often gets attributed to the notion that changes in barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, or precipitation can directly impact joint health and cause increased pain or stiffness.
But is that true?
This notion has been the subject of much debate and scientific investigation. Read on as Dr. Bradley Silva and our Lakeshore Pain and Spine Center team in Kenosha, Wisconsin, explore the connection between weather and joint pain and shed light on existing research in this area.
Various weather factors have been implicated with joint pain, including barometric pressure, humidity, precipitation, and temperature. Anecdotal evidence links joint pain with weather, although what type of weather can vary. A Dutch study found that patients with knee osteoarthritis experienced worsening symptoms when the temperature and barometric pressure rose; however, researchers from Tufts University found the opposite: cold temperatures led to increased pain. In either case, evidence points to the fact that weather can influence joint pain symptoms.
Another UK-based study found that days of humidity, high winds, and low pressure were most likely to increase joint pain.
While the relationship between weather and joint pain is still subject to debate and ongoing research, we look at the various weather elements that influence joint health.
Barometric pressure, the atmospheric pressure exerted by the air, has been suggested as a potential influencer of joint discomfort. Fluctuations in barometric pressure may affect joint fluid pressure, potentially leading to increased pain or stiffness. However, the scientific evidence supporting this claim is inconclusive and requires further investigation.
Humidity and precipitation are additional weather factors that can affect joint health. High humidity levels may contribute to discomfort or increased stiffness in individuals with joint pain.
Similarly, changes in precipitation, particularly when accompanied by increased humidity, can impact joint symptoms. However, the precise mechanisms by which humidity and precipitation influence joint pain are not fully understood.
Temperature is another weather factor often associated with joint pain. Cold temperatures, likely experienced during our Wisconsin winters, have the potential to cause muscles and tissues to contract, leading to heightened stiffness and discomfort.
However, the impact of temperature on joint pain varies among individuals, and not everyone experiences worsened symptoms in cold weather. The relationship between temperature and joint pain is complex and potentially influenced by other factors, such as individual sensitivity and preexisting conditions.
Weather factors, such as temperature or humidity, don’t act in isolation but rather interact with each other to influence joint health. For example, a combination of low temperatures, high humidity, and changes in barometric pressure may have a cumulative effect on joint pain. Understanding the complex interplay between these weather factors is an ongoing area of scientific investigation.
Regardless of the weather's impact on joint pain, chronic joint discomfort can be frustrating and, sometimes, overwhelming. Other non-weather-related factors can also increase joint pain, including:
You might find that keeping a journal of your symptoms is helpful. Note anything that makes your symptoms better or worse, what time of day your symptoms flare-up, etc.
Whether the weather affects joint pain remains a topic of ongoing debate and scientific investigation. While some individuals firmly believe that weather changes can exacerbate their joint pain, the existing research is inconclusive and often contradictory.
Factors like barometric pressure, temperature, humidity, and psychological aspects might play a role, but the specific mechanisms are not understood. Managing joint pain requires a comprehensive approach that includes medical interventions and self-care strategies, irrespective of weather conditions.
The good news is that you can take steps to manage your symptoms effectively. These steps may involve a combination of medical treatments, lifestyle modifications, and self-care strategies. Dr. Silva and our Lakeshore Pain and Spine Center team can provide personalized advice and guidance based on your condition.
Depending on the cause of your joint pain, Dr. Silva may recommend medication management, physical therapy exercises, lifestyle modifications, interventional pain procedures, Hyalgan® gel injections, or, if needed, surgery.