Which Weather Conditions Are Worst
If you combine results of the various studies, the general consensus is that cold, wet weather is the worst for inciting arthritis pain. Terence Starz, MD, rheumatologist at University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Pittsburgh, may have summed it up best with this quip he shared from one of his patients, The frost is on the pumpkin and the pain is back in my joints.
Changes in barometric pressure a measure that refers to the weight of the air seem to be more important for pain levels than the actual barometric pressure. Meaning that either a cold front or warm front coming in can ramp up the ache in your fingers. But once the weather has settled in, your pain will even out.
A 2015 study of 810 people with OA published in Journal of Rheumatology found significant links between humidity, temperature and joint pain. The effect of humidity on pain was stronger when the weather was colder. In essence, they found that wet, winter days are no fun.
A 2015 study of 133 RA patients published in Rheumatology International found that their disease activity was lower when their days were sunny and dry.
The Link Between Weather And Joint Pain
It isnt entirely clear why weather affects people with arthritis, but the link between weather and arthritic pain has been extensively studied. People with arthritis may experience pain in places where temperature changes are more extreme and in damp climates. They also experience pain in response to climate factors like humidity, air pressure, and wind speed. Temperature and barometric pressure have also been noted as contributing factors to joint pain. Understanding how different weather patterns affect pain can help people with arthritis find the best climate for them.
Whats The Research Behind Weather And Arthritis
Though researchers are not sure exactly why arthritis pain might increase with weather changes, they suspect that certain conditions in the atmosphere, such as a drop in barometric pressure, can increase swelling in the joint capsule leading to pain.
Barometric pressure refers to the weight of the air around us. In good weather, barometric pressure is high. This pressure pushes against the body from the outside, helping to keep tissues including the tissues that surround our joints from expanding. In bad or stormy weather, barometric pressure drops so that there is less pressure to push against the body. This allows tissues around the joints to expand, putting pressure on the joints and increasing pain.
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Barometric Pressure & Weather
In my experience, areas of low pressure mean rain. Areas of high pressure mean sunshine. In California, we have huge, heavy, sluggish ovals of high pressure sitting, on most of the state, most of the time. Those high pressure areas block most of the storms coming in off the Pacific Ocean, forcing them to slide north or south and acting like a big ol’ umbrella that keeps us nice and dry. And while the high pressure remains, blocking any actual weather, my joints gripe and groan and sometimes, scream.
Linking Barometric Pressure And Arthritis: The Beginning
Although there is also evidence to suggest that temperature affects joint pain, most of the research has focused on the effects that barometric pressure may have on arthritis pain. Barometric pressure, also known as atmospheric pressure, changes with different weather systems. Youve probably heard your local TV weather presenter talk about high-pressure systems and low-pressure systems the pressure they are referring to here is barometric pressure.
Many arthritis sufferers firmly believe that their pain worsens prior to a change in the weather, which is an indication that it may be linked to barometric pressure. One of the earliest official studies assessing the relationship between arthritis pain and weather conditions was performed in 1948, and although the results did show that patients in a climate chamber with a constant temperature and moderate humidity experienced less pain, the investigators didnt actually control for changes in barometric pressure. Plus, it was 1948.
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The Benefits Of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles, as well as your immune system. You get most of your vitamin D from direct sunlight when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays.
According to Cancer Research UK, the length of time you need in the sun to make enough vitamin D depends on skin type, time of day or year, and where you are in the world.
There are no set guidelines on how much time is needed in the sun, but those with lighter skins may need just 10 minutes of sunlight every day in the UK, while those with darker skin may need around 25 minutes.
There are guidelines on vitamin D supplementation for everyone in the UK, says Professor Walker-Bone. But if youre worried about your vitamin D levels and joint pain, its important to get advice from your GP or rheumatology team. They can check your vitamin D levels, ideally in the winter months when they are likely to be lower.
Some people find their psoriasis gets better when theyre out in the sun, but more research is needed to see if sunlight helps psoriatic arthritis.
Natural sunlight can help skin psoriasis, but doesnt seem to help joint symptoms, says Professor WalkerBone. Many people with psoriatic arthritis dont have very bad skin, so PUVA treatment cant help.
How To Deal With The Heat
If you experience pain during the summertime, here are some tips to beat the heat and reduce your pain:
- Stay Indoors: If the humidity and extreme heat causes flare ups in your pain, spending time in an air-conditioned area will help regulate your body temperature. Too much time outside can affect your joints and make your anti-inflammatory medication less effective.
- Drink Water: Drinking water and staying hydrated to maintain electrolyte levels and fluids is crucial to avoiding pain that comes from dehydration.
- Wear Loose Clothing: Wearing linen or light cotton clothing keeps your body cool by allowing it to breath. Tight clothes or heavy fabrics do not allow sweat to evaporate or keep your body cool.
- Swim: Swimming is a great way to alleviate joint pain and to cool off in the summer months. Low-impact cardio like water exercises are great for those who have arthritis or chronic joint pain.
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Managing Your Arthritis In Warmer Weather
Weve been lucky to enjoy some warm days recently and while most of us love a bit of sunshine, the warmer weather can affect some people with arthritis.
People with arthritis often say that they can predict the weather based on how their joints feel. Some notice their pain and stiffness flares up in the cold and wet winter months, while others find hot and humid summer weather can make symptoms worse.
Dr Alastair Dickson, GP and health economist with an interest in rheumatology and arthritis, and trustee of the Primary Care Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Medicine Society, says that some people are more sensitive to the weather than others.
It is unknown why weather affects arthritis pain, he says. One theory is that people are less active in cold, damp weather and keeping active is known to help relieve arthritis pain.
An alternative theory is that changes in barometric pressure affect the pain you feel. Temperature sensitivity is a common symptom of fibromyalgia, and extremes in temperature, whether it be hot or cold, can trigger flare-ups.
How Does Cold Weather Affect Arthritis
A joint is the area in the body where two or more bones meet. Joints are intended to allow bones to work with each other so that we can move and bend. That said, look no further than your elbows, knees, ankles, shoulders, hips, fingers or toes to see your joints in action. When you move these joints, you will notice that its usually quite smooth no cracking or grinding. Unless you have arthritis.
Thats because joints contain cartilage, a rubbery material that serves as a cushion so that bones can seamlessly glide against each other without risk of damage. As the cartilage starts to wear with time, injury, or disease, the joint can swell, become inflamed and stiff, lose its range of motion and weaken. There are more than one hundred different kinds of arthritis affecting more than 50 million Americans of all ages. And as painful as arthritis is, for many it seems to get worse during cold weather. Here are some reasons why this could be true.
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Barometric Pressure And Arthritis: Is There An Association
According to a study published in Anesthesiology News in 2005, changes in barometric pressure do influence arthritis symptoms. After studying 205 arthritis sufferers across the nation via a randomized, controlled study, they found that arthritis pain increased with decreases in temperature and with a rise in barometric pressure. Interestingly, barometric pressure goes up on dry, sunny days when you would intuitively expect arthritis sufferers to experience less pain, not more.
Why would increases in barometric pressure worsen arthritis pain? One theory is that rises in barometric pressure increase pressure in the joint spaces leading to worsening inflammation and pain.
Not all studies show an association between barometric pressure and arthritis. Some suggest that barometric pressure has little or no effect on joint symptoms in people with arthritis, but many of these studies are small and believed to be flawed, according to experts who still believe that barometric pressure plays a role in arthritis pain.
Other studies suggest that itâs actually decreases in barometric pressure that trigger arthritis pain. A drop in barometric pressure could cause tissues that are inflamed by arthritis to expand even more, thereby aggravating the pain. This would support claims by people that their arthritis symptoms worsen when itâs cold, rainy or damp outside.
The Effect Of Weather On Arthritis
The Cloudy with a Chance of Pain study, led by consultant rheumatologist Professor Will Dixon is the worlds first smartphone-based study to investigate how weather affects long-term health conditions including arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Thousands of people with differing health conditions across the UK, from Orkney to the Isles of Scilly, took part in the study over 15 months. Predominantly, participants were people living with arthritis.
Participants were asked to record their daily symptoms and other factors that affected their pain levels with an app on their smartphones, while GPS in their phones provided accurate weather reporting.
A sample of 2,658 people who recorded their experiences on most days for six months or more showed that people experienced greater discomfort on humid and windy days, whereas dry days were least likely to be painful.
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What Is Barometric Pressure
Barometric pressure, also known as atmospheric pressure, is the measurement of air pressure in the atmosphere. More specifically, it is the measurement of the weight exerted by air molecules at a given point on Earth. Barometric pressure varies depending on where you are in the world and is impacted by a variety of factors.
One of those factors is where you are in relation to sea-level.
Barometric pressure also impacts outside forces like the weather. This is the way meteorologists can track weather and gauge storms moving through. This is especially important for tracking hurricanes and typhoons.
But what does this type of pressure have to do with your health?
Changes In Barometric Pressure Affects Pain
Not only do changes in barometric pressure cause storms to bubble up across the radar, but it actually can change your blood pressure and increase joint pain. While this may be further impacted by precipitation and changes in temperature, there is something to be said about the way atmospheric pressure impacts our bodies.
According to Mother Nature Network, changes in barometric pressure may cause the following health issues:
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A Word On Conventional Arthritis Treatments
When natural treatment doesnt work, talk to your doctor about your using conventional treatments alongside complementary medicine. Many people try to avoid long-term use of over-the-counter and prescription painkillers, as this has been linked to a whole host of unwanted side effects from kidney and liver disease to substance abuse and addiction.
- Painkillers. Painkillers help to reduce pain but do not reduce inflammation. Over-the-counter options containing acetaminophen are commonly used, but for more severe pain, opioid-based treatments may be prescribed.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . NSAIDs act to reduce both pain and inflammation, and are typically available over-the-counter, such as ibuprofen and naproxen . It is worth noting that chronic NSAID use increases the risk of peptic ulcer disease, acute renal failure, and stroke/heart attack, which has prompted many arthritis sufferers to seek more natural painkiller options.
What To Do When Rain Causes Pain
While you cant avoid changing weather, you can take steps to prevent, ease or relieve weather-related joint pain. Dr. Bolash recommends:
Stay limber Stretching regularly and doing yoga are great ways to increase flexibility and maintain joint health. Building muscle may also help. The more muscle you use during physical activity, the better able those muscles are to support your joints.
Do water exercises Working out in a warm pool is especially good for loosening stiff muscles, strengthening joints, building muscle strength and easing discomfort. Water provides resistance while lifting the weight from aching joints.
Consider anti-inflammatory medication or treatments For patients with pain in a single joint such as the site of a former knee injury for example we might pursue steroid injection or other treatment, says Dr. Bolash.
Overall, maintaining mobility is the best way to fend off widespread joint pain without visiting your physician and thats true in any kind of weather, Dr. Bolash says.
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What Does This Mean For People With Arthritis
We spoke to some of the people who took part in the study to find out what this research means to them.
Nora Boswell, 70, was diagnosed with osteoarthritis five years ago. She tells us why she decided to take part in the study and how shes now using the findings to help her plan her days and manage her symptoms.
She begins, I have knee arthritis and multiple aches and pains but couldnt really pin down what made them worse and the thought of continued deterioration was daunting.
Nora decided to take part in the Cloudy study as she thought it was an interesting and much more in-depth way of researching her causes of pain.
She found the Cloudy app easy to use and was impressed by the broad spectrum of influences it was able to track, saying it helped me to think properly about my day to day life.
The results helped her to discover that inactivity raises her pain levels and on the dull, damp and grey days, she finds it difficult to stay motivated. Nora says, forewarning of such weather will ensure I set strategies in place to keep myself active and, I hope, alleviate the effect of the weather to some extent.
How Weather May Affect Joints
Scientists have done many studies on joint pain and weather over the years, but so far, none can say for sure what the connection is. Part of the problem is the studies themselves — many have used surveys of just a small number of people, which isnât a very reliable way to measure a link.
Still, there are a few theories about the relationship. One is that people with joint pain, especially arthritis, may be sensitive to changes in barometric pressure. How? It could be that when the cartilage that cushions the bones inside a joint is worn away, nerves in the exposed bones might pick up on changes in pressure.
Another idea: Changes in barometric pressure may make your tendons, muscles, and any scar tissue expand and contract, and that can create pain in joints affected by arthritis. Low temperatures can also make the fluid inside joints thicker, so they feel stiffer.
You might also feel more pain when the weather keeps you from moving around as much as you typically do. People tend to stay indoors and lounge around more when itâs cold and rainy outside, and inactive joints can get stiff and painful.
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Lifestyle Changes In Cold Weather
Lets face it. Even the most outdoorsy of us sometimes prefer a warm cozy fireplace to being outdoors. As such, we tend to slow down a bit during the winter months. This decrease in physical activity negatively impacts those with arthritis, so its no coincidence that those of us who prefer the sunshine to the snow may decide to cool it until the sun comes out in spring.
Can Weather Make Joints Ache
Do bad weather and changes in barometric pressure aggravate rheumatoid arthritis?
Remember that aunt who claimed her aching joints signaled a storm front on the horizon?
Many rheumatoid arthritis sufferers have long believed that cold, damp conditions or changes in barometric pressure can aggravate their symptoms, which can include pain, stiffness and swelling of the joints.
But despite a fairly large number of studies examining the impact of weather on problems related to rheumatoid arthritis, results remain inconclusive, says Andrew Ruthberg, MD, a rheumatologist at Rush University Medical Center.
“I don’t think there’s any strong answer to the question,” he says.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that frequently targets wrists, fingers, knees, feet and ankles. While we know it can occur in people of all ages, and that it affects more women than men, the precise role of weather remains up in the air.
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