Why Does The Heat Affect Arthritis
Our joints have sensory nerves that respond to changes in temperature. When the temperature and humidity levels go up, the joints fluid levels can increase and result in increased inflammation, pain, and discomfort. You may also experience stiffness or laxity in your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, making it difficult to move around.
Heat Humidity And Common Pain Conditions
During the summer months, especially in Texas, many chronic pain conditions are affected by humidity and heat.
- Arthritis. One study suggests nearly 5% of older people with osteoarthritis claim that hot weather impacts their joint pain. Individuals with inflammatory arthritis experience pain when temperature and humidity rise due to the way joint tissue. Joint tissue expands and contracts when temperature changes and humidity increases, therefore triggering pain in those with inflammatory arthritis.
Arthritis pain may arise from inflammatory rheumatologic disorders, damage from injuries or osteoarthritis caused by regular wear and tear. In many patients, it is associated with nerve pain. It may also occur in people with gastrointestinal disorders.
Treatments for Arthritis/Rheumatologic Pain include:
Does Where I Live Matter
If damp cold weather exacerbates pain, you may wonder why not move to where the weather is milder, warmer or dryer? Some researchers say climate doesnt matter.
In the U.S. for example, where different regions have varied weather and climate types, one study found that even people in mild, moderate San Diego reported weather-related pain. In fact, they reported more pain than residents of the studys three colder U.S. cities: Nashville, Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts.
Chronic pain doesnt care where you live, says Dr. Bolash. Humidity and barometric pressure tends to change everywhere.
Recommended Reading: How Can You Stop Arthritis In Your Hands
Why Is My Arthritis Worse In The Summer
If your arthritis seems to flare up in summer, youre not alone, and you can blame the heat and humidity. The hotter it is outside, the more your body will be susceptible to swelling. The more prone to swelling you are, the more pain you will have. Research shows that barometric pressure can also have some impact.Jun 1, 2020
Pain Management: Tips For Dealing With The Heat
Regardless of how chronic pain is related to hot weather or humidity, the condition can cause significant problems that need to be addressed. When it comes to pain management or pain treatment and hot weather, these simple strategies can keep you feeling your best:
Stay indoors. Perhaps the easiest way to avoid weather-related pain is to avoid being outdoors when the conditions are inhospitable, said Ioonna Felix, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Make sure you do not spend long periods of time outdoors, she added. If you do have to be outside, take frequent breaks to cool off indoors, and dont overexert yourself.
Adjust the air conditioning. Keep the air inside your home cool and keep the humidity low to treat pain. Invest in an air conditioner or fan, as well as a dehumidifier, Pappas said.
Eat and drink adequately. Stay hydrated with plenty of water , and eat a healthy diet to feel your best and keep chronic pain at bay.
Choose the right clothes. Dress for the weather. Wear white or light colors, especially natural fabrics like cotton or silk, that are loosely woven and loose-fitting, Dr. Lewis said.
Try cooling products. For a natural approach, remember that mint refreshes the skin and leaves a nice, cooling sensation, Lewis said. Try mint soap, lotion, or powder.
Also Check: Are Muscle Relaxers Good For Arthritis
The Link Between Temperature And Pain Is Widely Reported
There are a number of pain disorders reportedly influenced by temperature, and while experts cannot always explain the “why” behind this influence, the fact that it’s so commonly noted cannot be ignored.
With that, you may be surprised to learn that while many people associate bad weather with “bad pain,” a hot, sticky summer day can aggravate a pain disorder, as well. In fact, for some people, heat is actually worse than cold for their pain.
What The Research On Arthritis Pain Shows
One study looked for a relationship between weather and arthritis pain in 151 people with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, or fibromyalgia as well as 32 people without arthritis. All participants lived in Cordoba City, Argentina, which has a warm climate. Participants kept a journal for one year recording the presence and features of any pain, and these daily reports were matched with weather conditions such as temperature, barometric pressure, and relative humidity.
Patients in all three groups experienced more pain on days when the temperature was low, while people in the control group were unaffected by any of the weather conditions. In addition, patients with rheumatoid arthritis were affected by high humidity and high pressure osteoarthritis patients by high humidity and those with fibromyalgia by high pressure. However, the associations were not strong enough to allow pain to predict weather, or vice versa.
Another study looked at 154 people who lived in Florida and had osteoarthritis of the neck, hand, shoulder, knee, or foot. Participants reported their arthritis pain scores for up to two years, then researchers matched the scores with the daily temperature, barometric pressure, and precipitation status. No significant associations were found between any of the weather conditions and osteoarthritis pain at any site, except for a slight association between rising barometric pressure and hand pain in women.
Read Also: Is Ice Good For Arthritis Pain
How The Summer Heat Affects Arthritis
While summer is a great time to have fun, be active, and go on new adventures, not everyone is able to enjoy the beautiful season as much as everyone else. People living with arthritis already understand the pain and discomfort associated with the condition, but did you know that the summer heat can contribute to even more intensified pain and inflammation in the joints?
Its true the high summer temperatures can leave individuals with arthritis in more pain and discomfort than usual, making it tough to enjoy all that summer has to offer.
Why Does Cold Weather Affect Arthritis
The scientific community is still somewhat divided when it comes to whether or not cold temperatures can exacerbate arthritis pain. There isnt much conclusive evidence, but some studies show that there may be a link between low barometric pressure, high humidity, and joint swelling.
Many believe that a drop in barometric pressure, which occurs when a cold front is approaching, causes inflammation, pain, and stiffness. A recent study revealed a significant yet modest relationship between pain and relative humidity, pressure, and wind speed. According to the study results, the worst combination of weather variables increases the odds of experiencing pain by around 20 percent in comparison to the average day.
Read Also: What Foods Help Reduce Arthritis Pain
What Science Says About Humidity And Joint Pain
Believe it or not, those who claim the humidity affects their joints might be on to something. There have been studies on how weather can affect joint pain, and although there is no complete consensus that weather changes can affect joint pain, studies have shown the two might be related. However, the leading theory states that the changes in air pressure that accompany weather changes, rather than the weather itself, cause joint pain.
Although we cant see or feel it, the air surrounding us has weight and takes up space. This weight creates pressure that pushes against our bodies from the outside, preventing the tissues in our bodies from expanding. However, before it rains, the air pressure often drops. Because there is less air pressure pushing against our bodies, our tissues can expand. Its a microscopic change that is barely perceptible, but those who have arthritis may be more sensitized to the pressure due to inflammation and joint damage. This theory is plausible because changes in pressure do affect us physically. At high altitudes, there is lower air pressure this is why plane cabins are pressurized. Even with pressurized cabins, some people find that their feet swell during a flight.
How Humidity And Heat Affect Arthritis
Do humidity and heat affect rheumatoid arthritis? For some people living with this autoimmune disease, there’s no question that hot weather triggers their flares and increases joint pain compared to the winter season.
But, in the medical community, the debate rages on. A British study in Nursing Times reviewed several research studies on how weather affects arthritis. The results were conflicting and didn’t bring health professionals or arthritis patients any closer to understanding whether heat and humidity affects the condition.
What became a little clearer in this review is that how humidity and heat affect arthritis may not be the main issue. Instead, dynamic weathertransition from one weather state to anothermay have a bigger impact on this inflammatory disease.
The study cites research from 1985 showing evidence that a combination of weather conditions worsened arthritis symptomsin particular rising humidity and falling barometric pressure. It was noticeable that static weather patterns did not cause much change it was the transition that affected symptoms.
These findings were backed up by another study that indicated increased pain and swelling reported by patients with arthritis could be the result of a disparity in pressure between fluid within the joints and falling air pressure outside. Air pressure drops during stormy weather, which is more common in hot, humid weather.
Also Check: How To Treat Arthritis In Knee At Home
Does The Weather Affect Arthritis
Its a common belief that changes in the weather can lead to arthritis flare-ups, but is there any truth behind it? , Consultant Rheumatologist at BMI Bath Clinic, explores the science.
The impact of the weather on the symptoms of arthritis has been debated for many years.
As a rheumatologist, patients with many different forms of arthritis come to me and say their symptoms are always worse in the damp and cold, or even that they can tell when the weather is about to change by the way their joints feel.
Beyond damp and cold weather, patients also report that changes in barometric pressure seem to coincide with worsening of the pain and stiffness in their joints.
If you suffer from joint pain, these complaints might sound familiar. Yet despite how common they are, theres still no definitive evidence that the link between weather and arthritis pain exists.
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.
You May Like: How Quickly Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Spread
Is Cold Or Humidity Worse For Arthritis
Anecdotally, doctors who treat people with arthritis, as well as researchers who study factors that affect arthritis symptoms, hear over and over that certain kinds of weather namely, cold fronts, where theres a drop in barometric pressure and an increase in humidity makes peoples arthritis pain and swelling
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.
Recommended Reading: How To Keep Arthritis From Spreading
Heat And Common Chronic Pain Conditions
Many chronic pain conditions are affected by the heat and humidity during the summer months.
- Arthritis. A study shows that nearly 5% older people with osteoarthritis reported hot weather influences their joint pain. People with inflammatory arthritis experience pain when the temperature changes and humidity increases because it affects the way joint tissue expands and contracts, therefore triggering pain.
- Headaches & Migraines. Temperature changes trigger tension-type headaches and migraines. The fluctuation in temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure during warmer months can lead to dehydration, which commonly triggers headaches.
- Fibromyalgia. The National Fibromyalgia Association links weather and fibromyalgia symptoms when the weather is humid. People who suffer from rheumatological conditions have temperature sensitivity meaning any extreme temperatures can have worsening symptoms and heightened pain.
- Multiple Sclerosis . While pain has not always been a recognized symptom of MS, it plays a huge role in this chronic neurological disease. Anything that raises the bodys temperature can worsen MS symptoms. This means a hot summer day can make the pain worse and it is so common, that theres even a name for this: Uhthoff Syndrome. However, once a person cools down, the symptoms typically go away.
Low Indoor Humidity And Arthritis
Flare-ups do happen a lot and can trigger more when theres dry air, more so in a contained space. I usually hear from a lot of people, especially the boomers that the cold weather is not their best season.
At first, I thought the discomfort they feel was just because of the winter. The freezing weather actually prompts a lot of sicknesses such as allergies, flu, congestion, and more.
But, as I go through the relationship between humidity and arthritis, I learned that when there is minimal water vapor in the air, it has a higher barometric pressure. Therefore, the pressure on the joints causes further pain and distress.
The increased barometric pressure in a low indoor humidity environment causes arthritis pain. Safe to say, your dad could be right when predicting the weather by feeling his knees and joints.
Don’t Miss: What Is The Worst Kind Of Arthritis
Stay Active And Hydrated
Staying active will help to keep your blood flowing. Aim to consume less salt salt makes your body retain extra water, while drinking more water can dilute salt levels. To ease the swelling, raise your feet or put a pillow under your ankles while youre in bed.
Professor Walker-Bone recommends using ice packs or having cool showers. Adjust the temperature of the water to suit your personal preference, she says. If you use ice, remember to wrap it in a tea towel first so it doesnt burn your skin. Cooling gels and sprays may also help. If youre sweating more than usual, this can make you dehydrated, so keep topping up your fluid levels with regular drinks.
Does That Mean You Should Move
If a rainy, humid climate can actually make arthritis pain worse, will moving to an area with a drier climate make it better? Dont pack up and move just yet! In the long run, it wont make a difference. Sometimes, when people vacation in areas with drier climates, they do report less pain. However, people dont normally do their everyday activities while on vacation. Those who move to a drier climate will often find that their pain returns once they resume normal activities. The problem is that even if you eliminate the factors that make your pain worse, you cannot reverse the damage done by arthritis. There is treatment that can slow the progression of arthritis, but there is no cure. Those with very painful, advanced arthritis often need joint replacement surgery to improve their pain.
Also, keep in mind that no environment is arthritis-proof. People who live in drier areas like Arizona experience arthritis pain too. Often, our bodies can adjust to the new climate and detect changes in the air pressure. While moving may help you feel better temporarily, your pain will more than likely return.
If arthritis pain is affecting your everyday life, see a specialist who can help you manage your symptoms. The right treatment can help to minimize your pain and slow the progression of arthritis. In the long run, that will help you much more than moving to a drier climate.
Also Check: Is Moringa Good For Arthritis
How To Minimize Your Joint Pain During Warm Weather
- Staying cool. Remain inside when you can, especially on extremely hot days. Take breaks to stay cooler if you must venture outside, and make sure your air conditioner is turned up to a comfortable temperature.
- Stay hydrated. Water is not only good for your health, but it helps to flush toxins out of the body which also helps to fight inflammation. It aides your joints by keeping them well lubricated.
- Dont overexert yourself. Over-extension or utilization of your joints in warm weather will leave you feeling swollen later. Be mindful of how much your joints can handle.
At Orthopaedic Specialty Group, we offer a wide variety of treatments to help our patients deal with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, sports injuries, and more. Contact us today to schedule your appointment 337-2600!