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.
Does Humidity Make Arthritis Worse Weather And Arthritis
Living with arthritis can be difficult, especially when the humidity is high. It can be hard to move around and do everyday tasks when your joints are swollen and painful. There may be a relationship between weather and arthritis. So does humidity make arthritis worse?
While there is no definitive answer to the question of whether humidity makes arthritis pain worse, many people find their symptoms are indeed aggravated by wet weather. Its a popular feeling that warmer, dryer conditions are best for arthritis, as fewer flare-ups were experienced in these climates.
You wake up feeling stiff and achy, and you can tell its going to be one of those days. The arthritis pain is always worse when its humid outside, and you can already feel the moisture in the air.
You know that humidity can make your joints swell and irritate your skin, but youre not quite sure why.
Understanding the relationship between weather and arthritis can help you to better manage your pain and protect your joints on days when the weather is less than ideal.
Dutch researchers enrolled 222 people with osteoarthritis of the hip the most common, wear-and-tear type of arthritis and compared their reported symptoms with a variety of weather variables. They found that over a two-year period, pain and stiffness were slightly worse with rising barometric pressure and humidity, although the overall average impact was small.
A Mild Case For Warmer Weather
Although some evidence exists that people living in warmer, drier climates experience fewer episodes of arthritis pain, climate does not affect the course of the disease. At most, it may affect symptoms of arthritis pain.
One theory holds that a drop in air pressure allows tissues in the body to expand to fill the space, meaning that already inflamed tissue can swell even more and cause increased arthritis pain. Other possibilities: Pain thresholds drop in colder weather cold, rainy days affect mood and during colder weather people are less likely to be outside and get the exercise that normally helps keep arthritis pain in check.
So does this possible link between cold, rainy weather and arthritis pain mean that people with arthritis should you should move to a dry, warm climate like Arizona? Not necessarily, especially if it means leaving your family, friends, doctors, and support system behind. If you are thinking of moving, first spend a considerable amount of time in your new location to see if the weather affects your arthritis pain symptoms.
But bear in mind that no environment is arthritis-proof: Even though the people in these research studies live in warm climates, they still struggle with arthritis pain. Similarly, it’s possible to get relief from arthritis pain in any climate. For example, even if cold weather means you can’t spend time outdoors, you can still get valuable exercise in a gym or heated pool.
Humidity Joint Pain Relief
Humidity joint pain relief starts with avoiding exposure to a humid outdoor environment for extended periods of time. If you must be in a humid area, take breaks often and move around frequently to keep your joints from swelling.
You can also try using a humidifier in your home to help reduce the amount of moisture in the air.
Make sure that you are staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. This will help to keep the joints lubricated and prevent them from swelling.
If you follow these tips, you should be able to relieve your joint symptoms and stay comfortable even on humid days.
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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Does Humidity Affect Inflammation
While the relationship between humidity and inflammation is not fully understood, there is some evidence to suggest that higher humidity levels can lead to increased inflammation.
One study found that people with arthritis who lived in more humid environments experienced more joint symptoms and stiffness than those who lived in drier climates.
Another study found that people with allergic asthma had more symptoms when the air was more humid.
However, it is important to note that these studies are limited and further research is needed to confirm the link between humidity and inflammation.
In conclusion, while there is some evidence to suggest that humidity may affect inflammation, further research is needed to confirm this relationship.
How Warm Weather Affects Chronic Pain
As long-time chronic pain sufferers know, changes in the weather mean changes in pain. Many pain sufferers report that weather changes, especially rain or cold, make their pain worse. However, there is evidence to suggest that hot and humid summer days are actually worse for pain than any other kind of weather.
Why Does Joint Pain Increase As Weather Patterns Change
While temperature fluctuations can affect arthritis symptoms, Dr. North says there is significant evidence that changes in barometric pressure actually have a greater impact on joint pain and swelling.
Your joints have pressure receptors. When there is a low-pressure system that brings rain or higher humidity, you are more likely to see your arthritis symptoms worsen, explains Dr. North.
Summer Humidity & Arthritis Pain
Similarly, many arthritis sufferers report feeling more arthritis pain when the air is filled with humidity. This could be because the bodys tendons, ligaments, and muscles expand when humidity rises and barometric pressure drops.4
Some studies also show that high humidity levels can cause sweating and dehydration which can make the blood thicker, which increases blood pressure in the blood vessels and makes the body work more to pump blood through the body.5,6 Humid days can also cause the body to become dehydrated, which can decrease the concentration of fluid around the joints and create more joint pain.6
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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.
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.
Do Light Exercise To Help With Stiffness
Weight-bearing exercise is particularly important for people with RA, and much more so in the fall and winter as it keeps your joints and muscles moving. Exercise is also an important aspect to keep you from developing osteoarthritis, but even more so, it can help prevent the dreaded morning stiffness.
Of course, this doesnt mean you need to become a triathlete overnight, but it does mean you should start incorporating an exercise routine into your schedule. If youre out of shape, try making small goals at first like walking the dog around the block every day or taking a short walk down the road for some fresh air.
You can also start off with some swimming , or taking a gentle yoga class. A full-on workout routine isnt necessary, as long as youre getting in some cardio every day and making sure youre doing weight-bearing exercises.
However, it is important to note that exercising during a flare is not helpful. You should always get your doctors go-ahead before you start a new exercise routine.
But, exercising when youre not in a flare can help prevent flares in the future, so it isnt a great idea to go too long without establishing one. If you find that exercise is painful, take a pain pill 30 minutes to an hour before you start your exercise routine. This should help cut down on pain significantly.
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How Does Humidity Affect The Body
You may be pleased to hear that its not just your imagination if you suffer increased joint pain or back pain on humid days and nights. It might actually surprise you to learn just how much the weather can affect our bodies.
We often see weather-related joint pain reported by patients with arthritic conditions and joint pain here at Central Coast Osteopath. You see, joints contain sensory nerves called baroreceptors which respond to changes in atmospheric pressure. These receptors are very sensitive to low barometric pressure, which is when the atmosphere has gone from dry to moist .
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The Basics Of Arthritis
Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. The symptoms of arthritis include stiffness and joint pain.
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.
Applying Heat Vs Cold To An Arthritic Joint
Using heat and/or cold therapies on an arthritic joint is a simple, inexpensive alternative treatment that can help to alleviate pain, stiffness and swelling. Read:Alternative Treatments
Heat can relax muscles and help lubricate joints. Heat therapy may be used to relieve muscle and joint stiffness, help warm up joints before activity, or ease a muscle spasm.
Learn more: When and Why to Apply Cold to an Arthritic Joint
Alternating heat and cold. Some people alternate between heat and cold therapy. For example:
- A patient may be encouraged to use heat therapy to warm up a joint before physical therapy exercise and to use cold therapy after exercise.
- A person can use heat therapy in the morning to loosen up an osteoarthritic knee and use cold therapy to reduce swelling a few hours later. This process can be repeated throughout the day.
Cold therapy is recommended for certain types of arthritis that cause painful inflammation flares, such as gout and pseudogout. People with other types of arthritisincluding but not limited to osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitismay benefit from both heat and cold therapy.
There are no universally accepted guidelines for when to use heat or cold therapy on osteoarthritic joints, and recommendations are mixed.16 People with osteoarthritis are advised to experiment with both heat and cold therapy to find what works best for them.7
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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.
Best Climate For Arthritis Patients: Humidity’s Impact On Your Joints
How does climate impact people living with arthritis? Learn the best climate for arthritis and how humidity and other weather patterns can affect your joints.
Theres no denying it, weather and climate can have a significant effect on arthritis and painful joints. Many report that humidity, along with other factors such as temperature and weather changes and weather patterns, increase joint pain or trigger arthritis flares. For some, humidity and weathers effect on their joints is so bothersome that they seek relief by moving to drier, temperate climates.
But will a change of climate really help joint pain? And if so, what is the best climate for people with arthritis? What weather is safest for joints? Before you start packing, consider what the research has to say about the effects of weather and climate on arthritis.
What the Research Says
While the weathers effects on arthritis have long troubled people with the disease and intrigued researchers who study it, the connection between weather and joint pain is not well understood. Yet studies while conflicting in some cases offer important clues. One of the most recent and largest is a 2019 British study in which more than 2,600 participants who entered symptom information into their smart phones in real-time over a 15-month period. The phones GPS allowed scientist to collect precise weather data based on participants location.
How Weather Might Affect You
Possible explanations include:
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Practice Some Gentle Exercise
If youre looking for ways to stay active without doing harm to your joints or causing a flare-up, try performing some low-impact exercises while staying warm inside. Practicing yoga is an excellent way for those with arthritis to stay fit starting out with simple, gentle steps, you can build strength and flexibility while avoiding any poses that put too much weight on your joints. If youre someone whose arthritis affects their hands and fingers, gentle hand stretches are also a great way to improve your mobility while at home keeping nice and warm.
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