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Weather and joint pain

You’ve probably heard of people who can tell it’s going to rain because their joints start to hurt.  Maybe you’re one of them.

Many believe that people with joint issues can actually “feel” storms moving in.  They believe that they are more sensitive to the changes in the atmosphere than most.

But some believe that is a myth.

One theory is that a drop in the barometric pressure, like the kind that occurs ahead of an incoming weather system, causes the tissues around the joints to swell like a balloon rising in the atmosphere.  That leads to stiffness and pain.

It’s a fascinating theory and there seems to be plenty of anecdotal evidence to back it up.  However, if the swelling really does take place, the changes are so minute they would be hard to detect.  Not a lot of research has been done and what has been done doesn’t seem to provide any hard, scientific evidence to back it up.

But in 1961, a study was done by an arthritis specialist, Doctor J. Hollander, which concluded there was some evidence that linked a drop in barometric pressure and increase in humidity with an increase in symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis patients.  The study is widely criticized because it only used 12 patients.

At least one doctor, however, believes that the “myth” has been around too long to not be taken seriously.

Frances Wilder, PhD, an epidemiologist and the director of research at the Arthritis Research Institute of America in Clearwater, Florida was quoted in a WebMD article saying that “I think the fact that this ‘myth’ has persisted far longer than many others makes me wonder if there really is something to it.”  Wilder thinks it is possible science simply hasn’t caught up with all the personal experiences.

So what does all of this mean for you if you are one of the many that seems to experience increased pain when the weather changes?

The best thing you can do is keep a pain diary or journal.  Write down when you experience increased pain and what the weather was like at that time.  Also, note what the weather was like 12 hours later.  24 hours later.  Did your pain increase?  Decrease?  Then go over this information with your doctor at your next appointment.

Personally, as someone who has been a caregiver for a chronic pain patient and as someone who suffers from occasional joint pain, I have no doubt the weather plays a role in the frequency and severity of symptoms.  The question is; what to do about it?  Do you relocate?  Do you try different medicines?  What about physical therapy?  These are all questions that you should discuss with your doctor.  Taking a pain diary or journal with you will go a long way in helping you and your doctor come up with answers to some of those questions.

Homepage image/ NOAA

-Howard Joseph, with additional information from WebMD


Jude Hunter on 14/01/2013 11:29pm

Same for lungs..

Were any studies done on lungs..Jude

WW Forecast Team on 14/01/2013 11:51pm

As an asthmatic, I have always been very sensitive to weather changes.  HIgh humidity can leave me wheezing.  Extreme cold can bring on bronchial spasms.

Here is a link to one in depth study that was done.  It reveals a link between asthma and thunderstorms.

Jude Hunter on 15/01/2013 3:03am

It makes my lungs jump out of my chest, I have sever end stage COPD and am on 02.. I can tell the weather prior to the weather mans announcement and follow a few simple world weather charts.. I now where the storms coming from due to a variety of breathing difficulties and how my lungs push on my bladder or stomach.. Quite clever really .. The recent heat I’m often unable to move as I’m so breathless even on 02.. Huffin and Puffin.. Thats me a 10 minute job take ! hour, but ya gotta laugh.. Smoking was my poision. hmmmmmm Jude

WW Forecast Team on 15/01/2013 3:15am

But it sure does sound like you are a human weather station.  Biometeorology is fascinating field of study that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.

Wishing you the best…

Jude Hunter on 15/01/2013 3:33am

Thanks,, So many that live with my “stuff” dont understand the weather can take them out of circulation.. Sadly no one tell us all earn thru experience, we ALL know it affects arthritic pple .. Wish there’d mention lungs too.. I reposted you info on the COPD fb site thanks…

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