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.
What If The Weather Really Does Affect My Arthritis
If you still feel like certain weather conditions or changes in the weather are affecting the symptoms of your arthritis, there are things you can try to ease the pain.
For example, many of my patients find it helps to keep as warm as possible. Simple painkillers such as paracetamol taken regularly often help too.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to ease arthritic symptoms and provides the extra benefit of increasing your body temperature .
Finally, if youre really struggling with pain during colder and damper periods, a holiday in warmer climes might just be the best solution!
How Does Heat And Cold Help Arthritis Pain
Heat or cold therapy works by stimulating your body’s own healing force. For instance, heat dilates the blood vessels, stimulates blood circulation, and reduces muscle spasms. In addition, heat alters the sensation of pain. You can use either dry heat — such as heating pads or heat lamps — or moist heat — such as warm baths or heated wash cloths.
Conversely, cold compresses reduce swelling by constricting blood vessels. While cold packs may be uncomfortable at first, they can numb deep pain.
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How Can Weather Can Affect Arthritis
In 2019, the Cloudy with a Chance of Pain study, led by consultant rheumatologist Professor Will Dixon at the University of Manchester, assessed how weather affected more than 13,000 people in the UK with long-term health conditions, including arthritis and fibromyalgia.
Participants used a smartphone app to record their daily symptoms and thing that affected their pain levels (such as sleep patterns and daily exercise, while GPS on their phone provided accurate weather reporting.
The study, funded by Versus Arthritis, found that damp and windy days with low atmospheric pressure increased the chances of experiencing more pain than normal by around 20 per cent. Barometric pressure may affect your joints more than humidity, rainfall and temperature.
According to the Met Office, high pressure tends to cause fine, warm weather, while low pressure can lead to prolonged rainfall and flooding.
Can Hot Baths Or Spas Help Arthritis Pain
Many people with arthritis find relief from pain and stiffness with hot baths or spas. The moist heat increases muscle relaxation, boosts blood supply to the site of pain, and relieves rigidity and spasms in the muscles. But avoid hot tubs or spas if you have high blood pressure or heart disease, or if you are pregnant.
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Should I Use Heat Or Ice For Acute Injuries
If the new injury is red, swollen, or inflamed, then cooling the injury may help prevent inflammation. For example, if your pain stems from a muscle injury, treat it immediately with RICE — rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest the injured body part and then apply ice. You can use an ice pack or a pack of frozen vegetables or fruit for 20 minutes. Then take it off for 20 minutes. Add compression with a firm elastic bandage. Elevate the injured part to keep swelling to a minimum.
Before using moist heat or ice therapy, be sure your skin is dry and free from cuts and sores. If you have visible skin damage, don’t use cold or heat. And always protect your skin with a towel. After using heat or cold, gently move the arthritic joint to reduce stiffness.
Why Does My Arthritis Hurt More 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
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Is It Really The Temperature Or Is It Your Mood
Some experts believe that hot or cold weather can influence a person’s mood, and then this can influence how that person perceives paina reasonable argument.
On the contrary, though, in the above study on osteoarthritis, even after controlling for factors like anxiety and depression, people who described themselves as weather-sensitive still experienced more joint pain than people who were not weather-sensitive. This hints that mood problems do not fully explain the link between joint pain and weather sensitivity.
Still, it makes sense that a temperature change can impact a person’s emotional health, which can then impact how they perceive or interpret pain.
The big picture here is that it seems too commonly reported to dismiss a temperature change’s influence on pain. So, while your worsening pain is real and not in your head, your emotional well-being likely plays a role, albeit it may be small.
Managing Arthritis During The Summer
Life with arthritis is certainly a struggle, but its crucial to find ways to reduce symptoms and keep living life.
One way you can help to manage your symptoms is by understanding how things outside of your control can exacerbate arthritis pain. Once you understand it, take the proper action to protect yourself. For many people, arthritis symptoms seem to get worse in the summer months, and theres a good reason for that.
Keep reading to learn more about arthritis pain in the hot summer months and what you can do to help alleviate it.
Summer and arthritis explained.
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. The pressure changes outside can cause your joints to be more sensitive to pain. When the pressure changes, your joints will often feel tighter and stiff, creating a vicious cycle of swelling and pain.
If you live in coastal North Carolina, there is no avoiding the heat and humidity, so the best thing you can do it educate and protect yourself.
Hydration is key.
It is important to stay extra hydrated during the summer for these reasons, water helps keep cartilage soft and hydrated, and it promotes healthy blood volume, which allows nutrients to move through your blood and into your joints.
Even More Localized Heating + The Relevance Of Climate And Context
A reader question:
Is there a product that heats a very small area, like the size of a trigger point ? I could imagine something, kind of ball shaped at the end Would heating just that small an area be of some value? I ask because roughly one third of the year , I dont want to heat a big part of my body, except in the shower. Its too hot! But Id heat a very small area.
A home remedy version of this could be heating up a stone, which is easy enough.
Other than hot stone therapy , there is no such product that I am aware of.
If your environment is too hot for heat to be comforting and reassuring, then its unlikely to be helpful, and could even backfire to the extent that its actually perceived as a significant threat . But its a highly idiosyncratic thing. There are people who love to bake themselves in direct sunshine, which I find intolerable. My wife will put a heating pad on under the blankets even in summer, which I cannot imagine tolerating, and her craving for heat surges even higher for treating aches and pains. But I too have suddenly found myself craving the heating pad in warm weather when trying to ease an unusually savage aching.
The threshold between pleasing and annoying definitely moves around!
I am confident that a tiny heater wouldnt be very comforting or reassuring, though I find myself hard-pressed to say exactly why. Its just not big enough to have much of a sensory impact, I suspect.
Mistake #5 Relying On Your Primary Doctor Too Long
General practitioners typically dont have in-depth training in the mechanical issues of the spine. This can make it more difficult to get a correct diagnosis or treatment plan.
If youve been experiencing neck pain symptoms for more than a few weeks, the best way your primary doctor can help is to refer you to a spine specialist
Chiropractors specialize in treating the source of spine and joint pain through chiropractic adjustments and physiotherapy.
Our Kansas City chiropractors work closely with hundreds of Kansas City primary care physicians to diagnose and then treat back pain, headaches and neck pain symptoms using a non-surgical, effective form of treatment.
Is High Humidity Bad For Arthritis
The second study included more than 800 adults living in one of six European countries and who had osteoarthritis of the hip, knee, or hands. Although changes in weather did not seem to affect symptoms, higher humidity was linked with increasing pain and stiffness, especially in colder weather.Nov 20, 2015
When And Why To Apply Heat To An Arthritic Joint
Heat therapy is an easy, inexpensive, and medication-free way to relieve some types of arthritis stiffness and pain. Heat therapy can:
- Encourage the healing of damaged tissue. Warmth causes the blood vessels of the muscles to dilate, which increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.
- Stimulate joint fluid. Warming the joint, followed by gentle bending and flexing, can spur joint fluid production, which increases joint lubrication and the delivery of nutrients to joint tissue.
- Distract the brain from the pain. The comforting warmth can stimulate sensory receptors in the skin and decrease the transmissions of pain signals to the brain.
For many people, heat therapy works best when combined with other treatment modalities, such as physical therapy and exercise.
Hot vs. warm?Heat therapy should be warm, not hot. Heat therapy should not be painful or burn the skin. In addition, effective heat therapy provides a constant temperature for an extended period of time.
How long should heat be applied?Application time depends on where the pain is located. To be effective, the heat must penetrate down into the affected muscles and joint tissues. Too short of a session will warm only the skin and not the affected tissues.
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Is Ice Better Than Heat Is Heat Better Than Ice
Ideal uses of ice and heat are roughly equal in potency which isnt very potent. Neither is strong medicine. Some experiments have shown that both have only mild benefits, and those benefits are roughly equal in treating back pain.7 The reason to use them is not that they are highly effective treatments they rarely are but because they are so cheap, easy, and mostly safe, especially compared to many other popular treatments.8
Studies That Have Not Found A Link
Not all researchers agree that certain weather or seasons cause or are linked to RA pain or stiffness.
It is difficult to design a study that takes into account the many potential factors that could impact a persons RA symptoms, from the foods they eat to their stress or activity levels. It could be that temperature extremes affect a persons mood and ability to exercise, which, in turn, impact RA symptoms.
In addition, study participants may already believe that there is a link between certain weather patterns and RA flares. This could influence how they self-report their symptoms and, by extension, the overall results.
A 2012 review of several hundred studies found only 19 that were of high enough quality for inclusion. The authors conclude that the research does not conclusively link weather and RA symptoms and that additional studies are necessary to objectively measure RA symptoms.
That is not to say that weather does not impact RA symptoms. Other researchers have found a correlation. However, because high quality and bias-free studies are difficult to design, experts may never come to a definitive conclusion.
Seasonal or weather-related RA flares are difficult to avoid. There are some strategies to ease RA symptoms, however.
The following steps may help if cold weather seems to be linked to an RA flare:
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How To Apply Heat Therapy For Your Sciatica Symptoms
While it may seem logical to apply heat to the area where your sciatica feels worstlike the back of your thigh or your calf, these areas are not the source of your pain. Sciatic nerve pain originates from your rear pelvis and the lower back, and heat therapy works best when applied to this region.
Heat therapy is easily available, simple to use, and can provide immediate relief from the shooting sciatic nerve pain in your legread on to learn how.
Pure Speculation About Why Heat Might Be Good For Trigger Points
Trigger points are probably aggravated by stress, and being warm is a pleasant and comforting sensation, as long as we arent overheated to begin with. But it probably goes beyond that
Relaxation reduces resting muscle tone. You can have tight muscles without actually being in frank spasm. There are many degrees of muscle tone between deep relaxation and a charlie horse. Many otherwise healthy people live in a state of uncomfortably high muscle tone, their muscles always a little clenched and exhausted, probably with some specific areas even worse from awkward working postures. This state is inherently uncomfortable, like being tired from exercise but without the endorphins and it may be fertile ground for trigger points. If so, any reduction in muscle tone may be quite helpful.
Electric heating pads have been around for as long as weve have any kind of electric appliances.
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Protecting Your Joints In The Winter
Here are steps you can take to help ease the or reduce the risk of your symptoms worsening in colder weather:
Wear warm, protective clothing. Layering your clothing is best for warmth. To protect your hands, wear mittens instead of gloves, but if you must wear gloves, look for compression gloves. Protect your feet with warm socks and boots.
Use heat packs. Small heat packs in your pockets can keep your hands warm while you are outside.
Use heating pads on your sore joints. Be sure to have fabric between the pad and your skin, and dont use a high enough heat to cause a burn. If you have diabetes, speak with your doctor or team before using heat on your feet or toes.
Move around as much as you can. Exercise can help loosen , reducing pain. If you live in an area with ice and snow that make walking outside dangerous, consider joining a gym or indoor activity, like dancing or tai chi. Walking around the mall is exercise too.
- Look into mood-altering techniques if you find your mood is affected in the winter, which could contribute to more pain. Try using a light for seasonal affective disorder , meditation, or yoga to keep a calm mind and reduce stress.
You dont have to dread the winter months with RA. If you find cold weather worsens your symptoms, talk with your doctor about treatments or other lifestyle tips that can keep you moving with less pain all year long.
Why Heat Waves Are Dangerous For People With Chronic Illness
According to the World Health Organization, heat can cause severe dehydration, acute cerebrovascular accidents and contribute to thrombogenesis . People with chronic diseases that take daily medications have a greater risk of complications and death during a heatwave, as do older people and children.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists different kinds of medication that can increase the risk of heat-related illness, such as psychiatric medications and diuretics.
For arthritis symptoms, high temperatures and humidity can reduce the level or thickness of fluid around your joints, which can cause pain. Similarly, tendons, ligaments, and muscles can expand in humid weather, which puts more pressure on the joints.
I recently noticed firsthand how the heat is making my arthritis worse. I got my biologic infusion a few days before the heat wave broke out. I was expecting a decrease in my RA symptoms, as thats what usually happens post-infusion. Instead, I experienced:
- Increase in fatigue
- Increase in cognitive dysfunction
- Increase in pain, inflammation, and stiffness
- Skin irritation from sweating
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Heat Therapy Helps Relax Stiff Joints
Learn different ways to ease joint pain using warm water or a hot compress.
Heat Therapy Helps Relax Stiff Joints
Learn different ways to ease joint pain using warm water or a hot compress.
Looking for a natural way to get your joints moving in the morning? Close the medicine cabinet and try an age-old remedy that has stood the test of time: heat.
If you have a chronic condition like fibromyalgia, arthritis, or lower back pain, try heating things up. Soaking in warm water or applying a heated compress is one of the oldest, cheapest, and safest forms of complementary therapy. Research has shown that heat treatments can loosen stiff joints and relieve achy muscles.
Here is how it works. When you warm up a sore joint or tired muscle, your blood vessels get bigger. This allows more blood, oxygen, and nutrients to be delivered to the injured tissues. Better circulation means more relaxation for those stiff muscles and joints.
Stay away from heat if you have an acute injury or are having a flare. If you have a sudden onset of swelling and redness from overdoing it yesterday, you are better off using cold treatments for a few days. Cold has the opposite effect of heat: it reduces blood flow and decreases inflammation.
Here are a few simple ways to heat up your daily routine.
Here are a few simple ways to heat up your daily routine.
Take a Steamy Shower
Apply a Warm Compress
Dip your hands or feet in melted paraffin wax . Wait for it to cool and peel the wax off.