Weather on the Body: Did Your Joints Predict Today's Rain?

Can your joints predict the weather better than a forecaster?


Can your joints predict the weather better than a forecaster?  Attempting to find scientific evidence to support or refute this common notion is about as uncertain as the weather! We all have heard people say they know it is going to rain based on the increased pain they experience, but is this connection possible?  Commonly, in cooler temperatures, when barometric pressure falls and when humidity increases, patients sense their joint pain more.  Is there a direct link to these weather changes and actual changes in joint pressure?  The answer to this is mixed.  Some studies show a correlation, some find no connection and still others find the opposite is true!  Medical science simply does not know whether atmospheric conditions influence joint pain.

Your joints are lined with a synovial membrane that secretes a lubricating fluid to nourish and protect your joints. With arthritis, there is increased fluid due to swelling, inflammation, and abnormal mechanics in the joint.  Theoretically, as the pressure goes down, the gas and tissue expand, and this is perceived as increased pain by the patient.  Thus, they can “sense” a change in barometric pressure.  While this sounds like an acceptable explanation, there is no consistent evidence that supports this theory.  What can be explained scientifically is the increased pain and stiffness people feel in cold weather.  It is a fact that coldness increases stiffness in muscles and joints.  This can directly explain why these symptoms increase in cooler weather.  

Many medical doctors believe that the weather can affect joint pain, even though they can't explain why it happens.  Enough of their patients confirm the connection anecdotally, so it becomes a reality to both the patient and the doctor over time.  

Could it be that we are all just simply less likely to feel the pain on days when it's warm and sunny?  Or is that people naturally look for patterns and mistakenly associate pain with weather conditions?  Or is it that we unconsciously look to blame pains on something that is out of our control, like weather, rather than blaming ourselves?  When a person believes that weather is causing joint pain, then it is a psychological reality for that person, regardless of whether it can be proven as a scientific reality.  Why do we need science to prove this, anyway?  I trust my patients’ intuition on this subject and, if weather affects their pain levels, then I accept that as a valid explanation and we go from there to look for ways to minimize the pain.

There are many medical conditions that are directly affected by the weather.  Those with Multiple Sclerosis usually have increased symptoms in warm weather; those with Raynaud’s are triggered by cold weather; those with fibromyalgia tend to do worse in cold and humid conditions, migraines can be triggered by cold, dry conditions or any weather change; sinus headaches can be intensified by damp, cold weather; and those with asthma may be triggered by cold, dry air. You may know of other weather-related disorders that I didn’t mention.  

Whether (no pun intended) we can prove it or not, weather does influence many people’s symptoms.  Wet, dry, cold, hot-- weather will come and go no matter what we hope for and it will continue to affect each of us differently.  The constant change in weather may just be nature’s way of caring for us all.

At Conshohocken Physical Therapy, our mission is to make a positive impact, both personally and therapeutically, on every person who enters our office. We will improve the quality of your life with a friendly, evidence-based and innovative approach.

You will experience pain relief, improved motion and a greater quality of life. You will be treated by a Doctor of Physical Therapy who has the most specialized training to help you get back in motion. You will get direct attention from your Physical Therapist for at least 30 minutes during every visit.

Learn more about Conshohocken Physical Therapy by visiting us online at www.conshypt.com.



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Jefferson Tactics September 18, 2012 at 11:53 PM
That's a good beginning to an explanation. My mother feel arthritic pains all the times before the storms hit. Thanks for the article! Good stuff.


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