Why Do Joint Problems Flare Up When The Weather Changes
People who suffer from joint problems have a tendency to accurately predict changes in the weather. This is not unusual and there is no magic involved, although researchers have not identified the exact connection.
It is generally accepted by doctors who work directly with patients that barometric pressure, rain, humidity and changes in temperature affect the joints. Winter weather is generally cited as the cause of flare ups however, this is not true of every patients experiences.
Why Does Arthritis Hurt When It Rains
Arthritis is a common ailment effecting more than 50 million adults, and is the leading cause of disability in America. There are different types of arthritis like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, but essentially arthritis represents joint pain and joint inflammation. Symptoms of arthritis include swelling, pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion, and will come and go. The progression of symptoms is what begins to make daily activities like climbing stairs more difficult, and may eventually lead to permanent joint changes. But why does the weather affect arthritis and joint pain?
Treating Arthritis And Arthritic Flare Ups
You can apply heat or cold packs to the flare up area to provide local relief and ease immediate pain. Your doctor may put you on an exercise regiment that will improve strength and range of motion as well. Nutrition and good sleep are essential parts of comprehensive health, so of course they will have an impact on arthritis flare ups. A healthy weight will also put less pressure on your joint as you move around, and have a positive benefit to arthritic pain.
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Working With Your Doctor
You may not need to see your doctor every time you have a flare-up.
However, if pain and other symptoms last beyond a few days, you may want to make an appointment. Your doctor can investigate any symptoms that seem to be progressing, such as a reduction in flexibility.
Tracking flares through a journal or app can help you and your doctor to monitor the progression of your OA. The information you collect can help inform the decisions you make about treatment.
Your doctor may recommend imaging tests, such as an X-ray or MRI. These can help identify changes that might indicate whether youre experiencing a flare-up, long-term damage, or both.
If the results suggest new changes, your doctor will help you adjust your treatment plan to take these into account.
In time, flare-ups may become more frequent and symptoms can start to affect your mobility and quality of life. At this point, you may wish to consider joint replacement surgery.
Surgery is usually the last option for treating OA, but many people find it resolves recurring flare-ups and decreases the pain.
for OA and an OA flare-up usually involves a combination of over-the-counter or prescription medications and home remedies. Talk to your doctor about the options below.
Do You Suffer From Arthritis Or Other Chronic Pain Conditions
At Riverside Pain Physicians, we are committed to helping our patients live a more pain-free quality of life, regardless of whats causing your symptoms. Our skilled physicians are highly experienced in treating pain that results from all types of medical conditions.
We are dedicated to relieving your discomfort with compassionate, individualized care and state-of-the-art technologies for pain relief.
If you suffer from chronic pain, let us help to ease your suffering reach out to us today at 904.389.1010, or to schedule an appointment online.
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Ways To Minimize Weather
Whether or not researchers can prove that weather-related changes cause joint pain, youll want to experience relief if youre feeling joint pain on a cold or rainy day.
Try these strategies to ward off or reduce weather-related joint pain:
- Exercise regularly. Being physically active helps to strengthen your muscles and bones, which helps to take pressure off of your joints.
- Keep moving. Find ways to get your usual activity in, even if you cant walk around the block. Consider walking at the mall or using a treadmill.
- Stretch before moving. Do a few stretches before you do any physical activity. Youll warm up your muscles and improve your flexibility, which is good for your joints.
- Keep your weight in a healthy range. Lose weight if youre overweight, or maintain your current weight if its in the healthy range. Carrying around extra weight puts additional strain on your joints, including your knees and hips, which may make weather-related joint pain feel more intense.
- Use heat before activity and cold after. A heating pad may help to relax your muscles and loosen you up before activity and cold afterward can help with swelling and inflammation.
- Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. Medications like ibuprofen help to reduce pain and lower inflammation, which should help you to start feeling better.
- Try to maintain a positive outlook. Dont let a gray, miserable day bring down your mood. When you feel better emotionally, you may also feel better physically.
What Does Past Research Say About Weather And Arthritis Pain
The question of whether theres a link between weather and aches and pains has been studied extensively. While a definitive answer is nearly impossible to provide because its hard to prove a negative researchers have been unable to make a strong case for a strong connection.
For example, a 2014 study in Australia found no link between back pain and rain, temperature, humidity, or air pressure. This study collected data regarding features of the weather at the time of first symptoms, and compared it to the weather a week and a month before. But, an earlier study found that among 200 patients followed for three months, knee pain increased modestly when temperature fell or barometric pressure rose.
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Can You Prevent Arthritis Flare
Anyone with arthritis will tell you that planning ahead to avoid flare-ups is key. According to the Arthritis Foundation, a solid prevention plan is one of the best ways to manage your arthritis and avoid flare-ups.
People with weather-sensitive arthritis cant control the weather, but they can learn to prepare better for certain weather conditions and the symptoms that may accompany those changes. Here are a few things to consider:
- Keep an eye on weather conditions for the upcoming days and weeks in your area, if keeping tabs on the forecast feels genuinely helpful to you.
- Try to avoid being in harsh weather conditions, such as extreme heat or cold, for long periods of time.
- Dress in warm, dry clothing when the weather is cold.
- Dress in cool, loose clothing when the weather is hot and humid.
- Adjust the temperature inside your home to be neutral , neither too hot nor too cold.
Outside of planning around the weather, its also important to have a prevention plan for any other triggers that can lead to a flare-up in your symptoms. So, if youre someone whose arthritis is negatively affected by things such as infection, illness, overexertion, or even emotional stress, your plan might also include:
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Cold Weather And Joint Pain
In one study, which looked at 245 patients with rheumatoid arthritis, it was found that older patients were more likely to report flare-ups during the colder weather.4
However, a more extensive analysis of nine studies in patients with rheumatoid arthritis failed to identify a link between the weather and pain.5
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What Causes Osteoarthritis To Flare Up
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It’s the “wear and tear” type of damage that affects the cartilage in your joints which becomes more common with age.
“Like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis causes joint pain that can tend to flare up from time to time,” says Dr. Alam. “Unfortunately, it’s still not completely clear what triggers osteoarthritis to flare up, although we suspect that a primary contributor is overuse of the affected joint, either due to repetitive action or prolonged activity without sufficient rest.”
To prevent osteoarthritis flare-ups, take care to ensure you don’t overwork an arthritic joint.
And if you do experience a flare-up, you can help relieve your symptoms by using a warming pad or warm compress, taking over-the-counter pain relievers or just giving the joint some rest.
Why Your Body Aches When It Rains
Maybe youve noticed that your bones ache in cold weather. Now youre wondering: Why do my bones hurt when its cold? Well, its not uncommon for an old joint injury to ache on cold and rainy days. Many physicians have observed that more people feel joint pains on rainy days. So what exactly is responsible for this?
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Should You Move To Florida Or Arizona
Its a question that doctors hear all the time from arthritis patients.
People with chronic pain, if they cant get out as much and its so cold all the time or rainy or snowy then they think, Boy, Id like to go some place where the weather isnt quite so dramatic, Jamison says of his patients in Boston.
Though he doesnt advise against moving to warmer climes, he does try to offer realistic expectations. Theres no heaven on earth, he says. If you have awful back or neck pain theres a good chance that that pain will travel with you.
In fact, in Jamisons research, people from San Diego reported the greatest sensitivity to weather changes a surprise finding, considering that it had the warmest climate, compared to Nashville and the two Massachusetts cities.
San Diegans in his study noticed pain even with small changes in weather. You think of San Diego and the temperature is always mild it never gets too cold or particularly too hot but with just a small change, people with pain still reported that they could detect it, Jamison says. I think as mammals, we kind of adjust to our climate.
So its not always helpful to believe that whole myth of, Go to Arizona when you live in the Northeast and somehow your pain will be a lot better, Jamison says. We know that if you ask people to rate their pain in Minnesota or Arizona or California or even Florida, theres no one area of the country where youd say, Theres less pain there.
What If I Experience Joint Pain Even If Its Not Raining
If you have arthritis and suffer from joint swelling, stiffness, and pain regardless of the weather, physical therapy is a conservative treatment option that can help to alleviate your symptoms. A physical therapist can help address many impairments caused by arthritis. Treatments may focus on:
- Increasing range of motion in the joint to improve functional mobility and the ability to participate in daily activities
- Strengthening muscles that surround the joint so that they can provide the support that the joint needs
- Controlling pain through the administration of modalities such as heat, cold, and electrical stimulation
- Providing education on posture training and body mechanics to allow optimal functioning in daily activities while limiting pain
If you have arthritis and are looking for relief from your joint pain and stiffness, call Respire Physical Therapy at 671-1871 or to schedule an evaluation and begin the journey towards the more active lifestyle you desire with as little pain as possible!
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Understanding The Connection Between Arthritis And Cold Weather
While cold weather doesnt cause arthritis, existing arthritis symptoms like pain and stiffness may be made worse when the temperature drops. Researchers and numerous studies have evaluated the connection between cold weather and arthritis pain. Some studies have found a connection between barometric pressure and arthritis pain. Others found a direct link between temperature and arthritis pain, and even some found that the connection between arthritis and cold weather was strongest when coupled with high humidity. If thats true, then cold, wet weather is worst for your joints. Warm, dry weather, on the other hand, is best. Strong winds may even play a role in weather-related arthritis.
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The Effects Of Humidity And Barometric Pressure
One two-year study looked at the effect of the weather on 222 patients with hip osteoarthritis. Researchers found that higher humidity levels were associated with more pain and that higher barometric pressures were associated with worse function. The severity of the osteoarthritis, however, was not affected.1
Another study, this time on 810 patients with osteoarthritis of the hips and knees, also found that there was a significant association between daily average humidity and temperature and changes in joint pain. The effect of humidity was found to be more pronounced during periods of colder weather.2
In contrast, studies looking at osteoarthritis of the spine did not find such a link. For example, a large Australian study with 1,604 patients showed no effect of the weather on the severity of back pain experienced by these patients.3
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Does Damp Or Wet Weather Really Make Arthritis Pain Worse If So How
Donald A. Redelmeier, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, explains.
People with arthritis often believe that changes in the weather cause flare-ups of their disease. Decades of medical research, however, have failed to establish an objective relationship between arthritis severity and weather patterns. Moreover, detailed interviews with specific patients have yielded mostly anecdotes, and those who move to drier climates do not report major relief.
The specific idea of dampness affecting arthritis symptoms seems an unlikely mechanism for a number of reasons. The skin surrounding joints is rather impervious to water and most people stay dry indoors during rain anyway. In addition, arthritis patients do not experience dramatic changes in their symptoms when immersed in water . Wet weather may also be associated with other climatic conditions, such as decreases in barometric pressures. But even this connection seems implausible, given that much greater pressure swings are tolerated easily during plane travel or mountain driving in a car.
Another weather component is humidity, which might enter the body through the respiratory tract. But this seems an unlikely contributor because hospitalized patients are often given humidified air to breathe and this has little apparent effect on arthritis conditions. Furthermore, a long shower does not usually induce arthritis pain.
Answer originally published September 6, 2004.
The Basics Of Arthritis
Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. The symptoms of arthritis include stiffness and joint pain.
There are many types of arthritis. The two most common types are osteoarthritis , caused by repetitive movements, and rheumatoid arthritis , an autoimmune disease.
There is no cure for arthritis, but treatment can reduce inflammation and relieve pain and stiffness.
You probably know someone who swears they can predict the weather by their arthritis pain. You may even be one of these people.
Theres plenty of anecdotal evidence about the relationship between arthritis symptoms and weather.
Most people who believe their arthritis pain is affected by weather say they feel more pain in cold, rainy weather than in warm, dry weather.
There is some research to support the arthritis-weather connection, but some studies fail to provide conclusive evidence.
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Arthritis Can Affect People All Through The Year However The Winter And Wet Weather Months Can Make It Harder To Manage The Symptoms
The cold and damp weather affects those living with arthritis as climate can create increased pain to joints whilst changes also occur to exercise routines.
Many arthritis sufferers claim they can predict rainfall due to the level of pain in their joints. A recent study conducted in the US explains why. The study focused on patients with chronic pain, surveying if individuals feel an increase in pain when changes in weather occurs.
“67.9 percent of the people surveyed responded that they were sure changes in the weather had an effect on their pain. Most of the patients reported that they can feel a change in their pain before rain or cold weather occur,” said Robert Jamison, Professor at the Harvard Medical School and chief psychologist at the Pain Management Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Chestnut Hill.
Jamison revealed however that the factor that may be responsible for increased pain is not snow, cold or rain, but actually, a change in barometric pressure. Barometric pressure is the force exerted onto a surface by the weight of the atmosphere at any given point. As a storm system develops, the barometric pressure begins to drop.
“It doesn’t take much expansion or contraction of tissue to affect a pain trigger,” Jamison said. Therefore even individuals who live in drier climates also reported feeling more pain with weather changes.
So What To Do To Prevent The Aches And Pains
During winter dressing warmly is the key. Paying special attention to the head, hands and feet, as majority of heat is lost from the body’s extremities. Some helpful winter dressing tips include:
- Wear loose layers when going outdoors. Layers traps body heat to keep you warm.
- Wear mittens or gloves to protect your hands.
- Wear a hat or beanie to protect your head.
- Wear a scraf to protect your neck.
- Wear socks and waterproof boots to avoid getting feet wet or damp.
The cold and damp weather can also cause changes to peoples exercise plans. We have an instinct during winter to hibernate however, a lack of physical activity will cause joints to become stiff. Exercise eases arthritis pain. It increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and helps combat fatigue. To manage arthritic conditions during the cooler months, individuals need to plan physical activities that are easy to do during winter, such as:
- Walking indoors, such as around shopping centres
- Household chores, like vacuuming
- Swimming indoors, such as Hydrotherapy
- Taking an aerobics or yoga class
- Listening to music and dancing
- Using the stairs instead of the elevator
- Stretching or doing light exercises while watching TV
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Anything that keeps you moving works.
So when your joints start to warn you of miserable weather ahead, plan a warm routine of indoor exercise, rustle up your cosy clothing, or book yourself a two month holiday to a warmer destination!
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