Does bad weather really affect joint pain?

The answer to this question depends a lot upon who you ask. If you ask certain researchers, they’ll tell you they’ve found no evidence of joint pain getting worse with rain or other weather changes. Still other researchers have found that every 10-degree drop in temperature corresponded to a rise in arthritis pain—as did a drop in barometric pressure.

In our experience, the patient knows best whether or not weather affects their joint pain, and the vast majority of them say it does. Patients with arthritis, bursitis, osteoarthritis, and other joint pain disorders report that their pain worsens when the weather takes a turn. What could explain this?

Possible explanations for pain affected by weather changes.

There are no research studies that have proven a definite cause-effect relationship between weather and increased joint or body pain. Still there are several theories, one being that people with arthritis may be more sensitive to changes in the barometric pressure. This could be caused by the fact that cartilage which usually cushions the bones in a joint becomes worn away, exposing nerves that are sensitive to changes in barometric pressure.

Another theory posits that barometric pressure might make tendons, muscles and scar tissue expand and contract, causing pain in joint that are afflicted with arthritis. Lower barometric pressure can also thicken the fluid inside joints, making them feel stiffer when they are moved.

On top of that, bad weather can keep us indoors and moving around less. Reduced movement can also increase more pain. There’s even a theory based around the fact that cold weather causes our bodies to conserve heat and send it to our inner core organs, like the heart and lungs. The theory suggests that when this happens, the blood vessels in our joints constrict, causing more stiffness and pain.

So what can you do about bad-weather pain?

Once you have joint pain, it can be tough to get rid of completely. But there are things you can do to alleviate it or to prevent it from getting worse. Here are some tips for handling recurring joint pain:

  1. See your doctor or an orthopedist here at Coastal Orthopedics. We can do testing to diagnose the reason for the problem. Don’t just assume it’s arthritis. There could be other issues hiding in your joints that need to be addressed.
  2. Exercise. It may sound counterintuitive, but exercise is actually good for most joint problems, as long as you don’t overdo it. Good forms of exercise include yoga, stretching, walking and light weight-lifting.
  3. Don’t strain your joints too much if you don’t have to. Ask others to help with difficult tasks that include lifting heavy objects or climbing ladders.
  4. When pain does get bad, try applying heat with a heating pad or even immersing yourself in a warm bath.
  5. Ask your doctor about pain-relieving medications such as NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs). These can include over-the-counter medications such as Ibuprofen or prescription medications.
  6. If you’ve tried all of this to no avail, it’s time to see a specialist. It could be that your problem is more serious and needs to be addressed surgically or in other ways.

When to seek help.

You don’t have to live your life in pain. When pain begins to interfere with your daily activities, it’s time to see a physician. The physicians at Coastal Orthopedics are experienced in dealing with all types of joint pain and can offer the latest treatments to help you get back to your normal life. Just call us at 941-792-1404 or request an appointment here and say goodbye to bad weather pain.