Updated: May 26
It's no myth – people with arthritis may be able to tell changes in the weather due to a change in their symptoms.
Between 62% and 97% of people with musculoskeletal conditions believe that the weather influences their pain. It is generally believed that cold, wet weather is worse for arthritic pain.
Evidence is a bit sketchy on this topic as it has been very hard to prove but there is a body of evidence that does seem to suggest that some people are more susceptible to weather and pressure changes than others.
A study from Tuffs University in 2007 found that every 10-degree drop in temperature corresponded with an incremental increase in arthritis pain.
So what are the reasons behind this phenomena ?
Enter the villains in the story...
Barometric pressure (AKA atmospheric pressure) is the force exerted by the atmosphere at the given point. It is known as the ‘’weight of the air”. A drop in barometric pressure often precedes cooler temperatures, rain or storm.
How does barometric pressure change affect your joints?
The theory is that the decrease in the air pressure can cause the tissue around the joint to swell increasing synovial fluid in the joint. This then creates an inflammatory effect and an increase in pressure inside the bone resulting in pain. This pressure effects everyone but the decrease in cartilage related to arthritis or injury is what makes joint pain sufferers more susceptible to these changes in the weather.
Lack of movement due to the cold.
Another theory is that when it gets colder we have a tendency to move less resulting in us not accessing the most powerful of medicines; the positive effects of exercise.
Think of exercise as your own personally produced panadol; by exercising we release endorphins and other chemicals that are known to be powerful anti-inflammatory and painkillers.
Alteration in the way the tendons and joints move.
There has been some research to suggest that changes in temperature and pressure have a subtle effect on the hip joint and how it moves in its socket.
Increased sensitivity of the " pain receptors" / nociceptors in the tissues .
The main issue is that some individuals seem to be affected by changes in temperature and enviromental conditions more than others.
How to manage the pain
Physical activity, Motion is Lotion.
low impact activities such as walking help to move the synovial fluid though the joints reducing stiffness and pain.
Gentle soft tissue massage and joint mobilisation may also help to move synovial fluid in the joints decreasing pain and limiting stiffness and swelling.
Keep your body, house and car warm to reduce cold weather related joint pain. Be prepared and find what works best for you.
Don’t wait for the body to get cold. Options such as using the heater, heat packs, electric blankets or extra clothing can be very beneficial for managing symptoms.
Really the best way to warm up..... is get moving.
Anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or panadol may also be helpful to limit swelling. Always consult your doctor before taking or changing any medication.
Embrace the winter blues, wrap up and get moving