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.
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.
Lack Of Adequate Water May Intensify Joint Pain And Other Ra Symptoms
My rheumatoid arthritis symptoms definitely increase when I dont drink enough water, or if Im in extreme heat, says Eileen Davidson, a rheumatoid arthritis patient, advocate, and author of the Chronic Eileen blog. I tend to feel more stiffness in my joints and muscles. I have a spike in fatigue, sluggishness, and definite increase in cognitive dysfunction.
Water plays a vital role in helping different parts of the body function at their best. A lack of liquids can increase inflammation and lessen the amount of fluid that cushions joints. The good news: Simple measures can help you avoid the negative effects of dehydration.
Heres what you need to know about how dehydration affects someone with RA.
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What Can I Do To Lessen My Arthritis Pain
Arthritis and cold weather might want to make you stay inside and get under the covers of a warm blanket but you might want to reconsider that and opt for a brisk walk.
Even walking indoors, stretching, and other movements can get your blood circulating and help reduce stiffness associated with arthritic pain. Gentle movements that keep your body moving will help fluid find your joints to aid in lubricating them.
Imagine your body is like a car you have to keep it tuned up for it to work properly. If you let your car sit and you never start it, it will be hard to start it when you want to go somewhere. Your body is the same way. Activity keeps your joints moving and able to function when you need them to.
You Likely Cant Relocate To Avoid The Weather
So if joint symptoms are milder on sunnier, drier days, why doesnt everyone move to Los Angelessurely this is the best weather for arthritis? Well, one study found that weather sensitivity wasnt related to where the study participants lived, whether that was San Diego, Nashville, Boston, or Worcester, MAhumidity levels change, and temperature drops can happen everywhere.10, 11 Therefore, you should talk to your doctor about a remedy for the pain so that you can go on and enjoy the great outdoorseven on those cold and humid days!
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How Does Low Pressure Affect Weather
Low pressure is what causes active weather. The air is lighter than the surrounding air masses so it rises, causing an unstable environment. Rising air makes the water vapor in the air condense and form clouds and rain for example. Low pressure systems lead to active weather like wind and rain, and also severe weather.
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How To Ease Weather
You donât have to pick up and move to a different climate. Thereâs plenty you can do at home to relieve joint pain.
- When temperatures drop, try to keep yourself warm. Take warm showers or baths, dress in layers during the day , use an electric blanket at night, or crank up the heat inside your home.
- Try a paraffin bath. Itâs a small machine that melts paraffin wax. You dip your hands and feet in, and then you let the wax harden on your skin. Your body absorbs the heat, which may soothe achy joints. You can also use a heating pad on sore spots.
- Ask your doctor about pain medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs .
- Keep a healthy weight and stay active. Try exercise thatâs gentle on the joints, like yoga or swimming. That will help you build up muscle and bone strength. If you go outside to exercise, limber up first with some gentle stretches.
- Donât strain your joints if you donât have to. Let someone else lift those heavy boxes.
- Make sure you take care of your health in general, like with good nutrition and getting enough sleep.
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The Basics Of Arthritis
Arthritis is inflammation of the joints. The symptoms of arthritis include stiffness and joint pain.
There are many types of arthritis. The two most common types are osteoarthritis , caused by repetitive movements, and rheumatoid arthritis , an autoimmune disease.
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.
Further Studies Of Arthritis And Weather
Further support for an effect on the atmospheric pressure in arthritis was published in the Proceedings of the Western Pharmacology Society in 2004. In this prospective, double-blind study, 92 patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis were compared to a control group of 42 subjects. The authors concluded that the osteoarthritis patients experienced increased joint pain with a low atmospheric pressure while low temperature increased the risk of joint pain in the rheumatoid arthritis group.
Another study published in the Journal of Rheumatology in 2004 demonstrated that high humidity was unfavorable for arthritis patients. Based on these two studies alone, it would seem that a location that tends to have higher barometric pressure and lower humidity would represent a favorable environment for people with arthritis.
Another study published in the Journal of Rheumatology in 2015 examined whether daily weather conditions, 3-day average weather conditions, and changes in weather conditions influence joint pain in older people with osteoarthritis in six European countries. Study results revealed that associations between pain and daily average weather conditions suggested a causal relationship between joint pain and weather variables, however, the associations between day-to-day weather changes and pain did not confirm causation.
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Does Research Matter When You Have Personal Experience
Thats a fair question. And its something Ive even heard in TV commercials about headache medicines: I dont care about the research. I just know what works for me. But its worth remembering that humans have a remarkable tendency to remember when two things occur or change together , but remember less when things do not occur together. That rainy day when you felt no better or worse is unlikely to be so notable that you remember it. If you rely solely on memory rather than on more rigorous, data-based evidence, its easy to conclude a link exists where, in fact, none does.
The Effects Of Humidity And Barometric Pressure
One two-year study looked at the effect of the weather on 222 patients with hip osteoarthritis. Researchers found that higher humidity levels were associated with more pain and that higher barometric pressures were associated with worse function. The severity of the osteoarthritis, however, was not affected.1
Another study, this time on 810 patients with osteoarthritis of the hips and knees, also found that there was a significant association between daily average humidity and temperature and changes in joint pain. The effect of humidity was found to be more pronounced during periods of colder weather.2
In contrast, studies looking at osteoarthritis of the spine did not find such a link. For example, a large Australian study with 1,604 patients showed no effect of the weather on the severity of back pain experienced by these patients.3
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Females Are Especially Susceptible To Joint Pain In Winter
A 2022 study in the International Journal of Biometeorology found females with RA were more susceptible to extremely cold temperatures than males. The study participants were people of any sex with RA hospitalized in Anquig, China, from 2015 to 2019.
Most of those hospitalized were female. Hospitalizations were for people experiencing severe pain and needing pain-management injections who were also being treated for illnesses common in the winter, such as pneumonia. Hospitalizations increased when the temperatures were the coldest, and hospital admissions were lowest on days when the average temperature was 23.9 Fahrenheit.
Here, the study’s authors suggest further exploring the connection between RA hospitalizations and temperature changes. By better understanding the connection, steps can be taken to manage and alleviate worsening symptoms that could potentially lead to joint damage and disease complications.
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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Tips On Managing Weather
Regardless of what the studies show, your pain is unique to you. If you notice an increase in joint pain or stiffness during certain weather patterns, there are things you can do to find some relief. Your doctor may increase the dosage of your pain medication, but you can also try one of the following:
Everyone with arthritis is different. Some people are not affected by the weather at all while some experience a significant increase in pain. Unfortunately science doesnt yet have a lot of answers and its impossible to predict what type of weather changes will affect which people. If youve noticed that your symptoms worsen in specific types of weather, talk to your doctor to find a treatment plan that works for you.
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How Can You Treat Weather
When the weather changes overnight, and you wake up to an extra ache in your joints, there are a few tricks to keep in your back pocketparticularly for people with osteoarthritis. That said, if you have rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, or another inflammatory form of arthritis, you likely already have a treatment plan in place for flare-ups, which may involve a course of corticosteroids prescribed by your doctor. Of course, these tips can still be helpful in addition to your prescription medications but talk with your doctor first. Here are a few things to try, according to the CDC:
- A stash of over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help tame unexpected weather-related joint pain. These can take the edge off, at least until that barometric pressure has a chance to rise. If thats not doing the trick, you can always talk with your doctor about a prescription-strength option to get that arthritis pain relief.
- Gentle physical activity, such as yoga or range of motion exercises, can help ease pain and stiffness.
- Physical therapy gives you the tools to practice at home consistently, which can be helpful to ward off flare-ups and reduce pain when you do have one.
- Practicing grounding techniques, like deep breathing, can help take your focus away from anxious thoughts or feeling down when the weather is to blame for aches and pains.
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Does The Weather Affect Shoulder Arthritis Pain
Many patients and physicians believe that weather patterns affect arthritis pain. I myself believed this, having heard so many many of my shoulder arthritis patients complain that they hurt more when the weather changed. Some reported that they could tell if rain was coming based on the pain levels in their shoulder.
I was suprised when I stumbled on this old publication in a psychology journal which showed that weather is not correlated with arthritis pain. People have a tendency to think that it is becuase we often perceives relationships where none exist, which is a common phenomenon in decision analysis research.
Ive attached the article for people to draw their own conclusions. Wether it is fact or fiction I do not know, but my shoulder arthritis patients throughout Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and the Outer Banks tell me it is real!
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Theories On Why Your Joints Hurt As The Weather Changes
1. Barometric pressure theory
Scientists believe that your joint fluids are sensitive to changes in barometric pressure. This means that when it changes, your tendons, muscles and tissues expand or contract, causing pain.
Specifically, they think when barometric pressure is low, your joint fluids receive less pressure and thus swell and become inflamed. With the inflammation of fluids, your muscles are subsequently affected. Since low barometric pressure often occurs before a storm, many patients think that their joint pain predicts the weather.
2. Temperature theory
Patients also report joint pain with colder temperatures. Again, the key here is the joint fluids. With lower temperatures, researchers think your fluids become thicker and less dynamic. This makes your joints feel stiffer and less flexible than usual. In particular, sudden low temperatures may cause this feeling of sluggish joints.
3. Humidity/precipitation theory
Humidity and precipitation are another common theory regarding joint pain. Its difficult to separate conditions, as precipitation often involves low barometric pressure, too. However, anecdotal evidence is strong regarding patients reporting pain when its rainy outside.
4. Exposure to change theory
5. Blood flow theory
6. Mood theory
7. Inactivity theory
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How Cold Weather Affects Arthritis
Perhaps you believed your grandmother or grandfather was a mystical meteorologist, capable of predicting a temperature drop when his or her joints started to ache. While their psychic abilities are unlikely to be true, it is a long-held belief of those with arthritis that the onset of cold weather increases joint pain.
And winter is coming.
However, the research connecting an increase in joint pain and cold weather isnt entirely clear. Humidity, precipitation, and temperature do appear to have some effect on arthritis patients, but the true culprit of increased joint pain from cold weather is actually barometric pressure, or pressure of the air.
Can You Prevent Arthritis Flare
Anyone with arthritis will tell you that planning ahead to avoid flare-ups is key. According to the Arthritis Foundation, a solid prevention plan is one of the best ways to manage your arthritis and avoid flare-ups.
People with weather-sensitive arthritis cant control the weather, but they can learn to prepare better for certain weather conditions and the symptoms that may accompany those changes. Here are a few things to consider:
- Keep an eye on weather conditions for the upcoming days and weeks in your area, if keeping tabs on the forecast feels genuinely helpful to you.
- Try to avoid being in harsh weather conditions, such as extreme heat or cold, for long periods of time.
- Dress in warm, dry clothing when the weather is cold.
- Dress in cool, loose clothing when the weather is hot and humid.
- Adjust the temperature inside your home to be neutral , neither too hot nor too cold.
Outside of planning around the weather, its also important to have a prevention plan for any other triggers that can lead to a flare-up in your symptoms. So, if youre someone whose arthritis is negatively affected by things such as infection, illness, overexertion, or even emotional stress, your plan might also include:
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