How Humidity And Heat Affect Arthritis
Do humidity and heat affect rheumatoid arthritis? For some people living with this autoimmune disease, thereâs 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 didnât 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.
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Best Places To Live With Arthritis
Based on the Rheumatic Disease Report Card, the best places to live with arthritis in the United States include:
- California: With a B rating on the access to care map, minimal humidity, and consistently warm weather, Southern California is a great place to live comfortably with rheumatoid arthritis
- Hawaii: People with arthritis may also thrive in Hawaiis less humid regions, such as the Kona side of the Big Island. Hawaii gets ample sun and warmth and has high-quality care access
- Virginia: Virginia has a B on the care rating scale. The weather there is more mild than that in the northern states, but not as humid as that in other southern states, making it a great place for people with arthritis to live
- Colorado: The dry climate of Colorado makes it suitable for people with arthritis. Southern and plains regions, which get less snow than the mountains, are best. Colorado also has great expert care access
Dixon WG, Beukenhorst AL, Yimer BB, Cook L, Gasparrini A, El-Hay T, Hellman B, James B, Vicedo-Cabrera AM, Maclure M, Silva R, Ainsworth J, Pisaniello HL, House T, Lunt M, Gamble C, Sanders C, Schultz DM, Sergeant JC, McBeth J. How the weather affects the pain of citizen scientists using a smartphone app. NPJ Digit Med. 2019 Oct 24 2:105. doi: 10.1038/s41746-019-0180-3
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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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.
Are You Weather Sensitive
Some people are more sensitive to weather than others. So you may feel more stiff and achy in the cold more than your neighbor. That doesnt either of you is wrong, it just means that we dont perceive things the same.
A 2014 study of people with osteoarthritis published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders asked participants if and how weather influenced their pain. Of the 712 people who answered the survey, 469 said they were weather sensitive. It turns out that weather-sensitive people with OA experience more joint pain overall than their non-weather-sensitive counterparts.
A 2011 article published in European Journal of Pain found similar results in people with rheumatoid arthritis . The researchers looked at nine previously published studies of people with RA and concluded pain in some individuals is more affected by the weather than in others, and that patients react in different ways to the weather.
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:
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.
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Looking For More Information On Keeping Warm
Our blogs are educational in nature and are not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Because your condition is unique to you, it is recommended that you consult with your health care provider before attempting any medical or therapeutic treatments. We are always happy to answer questions about products mentioned in our blogs, however, we cannot provide a diagnosis or medical advice.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
The winter months are so persuasive in encouraging us to hibernate inside next to the fire with a warm cup of cocoa in our hands. And theres also the seemingly endless winter holiday food.
Yet, the more we weigh, the more weight our joints must carry. A healthy weight can help decrease the stress put on weight-bearing joints such as the knees.
Get ahead of the pain! If the weather forecast in your area is predicting cooler temperatures for the week, act early. Plan your warm wardrobes out. After a warm morning shower, stretch and take over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. And get moving!
If arthritis and joint pain persists after implementing these tips, visit orthovirginia.com/appointments to schedule a visit with one of our orthopedic physicians.
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.
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.
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Your Intuition About The Weather
While there arent definitive studies that show that weather changes cause arthritis pain, research does reveal there may be an association.2 For example, one study shows a connection between joint pain and daily average weather conditions.3 In another study, researchers asked over 700 people how the weather influenced their arthritis pain, and about 67 percent of survey respondents reported that the weather was indeed affecting their pain.4
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
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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.
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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.
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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What Kind Of Weather
Several studies have tried to pinpoint the kind of weather changes that affect joint pain, but the findings are all over the map.
In one survey of 200 people with osteoarthritis in their knee, researchers found that every 10-degree drop in temperature as well as low barometric pressure corresponded to a rise in arthritis pain. More recently, however, a Dutch study of 222 people with osteoarthritis of the hip found that over 2 years, people said their pain and stiffness got worse with rising barometric pressure and humidity.
Another group of researchers took a look at medical records of more than 11 million Medicare visits and matched dates to local weather reports. They didnât see any link between weather changes and joint pain at all. Two recent Australian studies one on knee pain and one on lower back pain also found no connection to weather change.
But even though the science isnât clear, flare-ups when the weather turns are very real for many people with joint pain. Some peopleâs bodies may just be more sensitive to changes in the weather. Many people say they find relief in warmer climates, but again, thereâs no scientific proof that it will ease your aches.
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.
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