Cloudy With A Chance Of Pain
The quest to define the link between arthritis and the weather continues, with researchers adopting more novel approaches that embrace modern technology.
The first smartphone-based study to investigate the relationship between weather and chronic pain, otherwise known as Cloudy with a chance of pain, ran between January 2016 and April 2017. During this time it collected 5 million pieces of data on symptoms, however the findings are yet to be reported.6
One smartphone-based study that has released findings looked at the location-based weather parameters of 1,334 participants in the US. Any significant links between pain symptoms and the weather were very weak in this study.7
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.
Stretches To Try After A Cold
Try this cooldown-stretching routine from Morgan after a cold-weather run or other outdoor workout. Hold each static stretch, or perform each dynamic move, for at least 30 seconds.
- Start in downward facing dog, with your hands shoulder-width apart, butt lifted back and toward the ceiling, legs straight, arms extended, back flat, and your head in between your arms.
- Bring your right foot forward outside your right hand. Your right knee should be bent in a deep runners lunge . Briefly hold that position before bringing your right foot back and transitioning into a downward facing dog. This is 1 rep.
- Continue for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then switch sides.
- Sit on a mat and bring your right leg underneath your body, placing it in front of you with your shin parallel to the top of your mat.
- Extend your left leg long behind you and rest the top of your foot on the mat.
- Keep your right foot flexed and try to keep your left hip as close to the mat as you can. If it lifts off the floor, bring your right foot a little closer to your body. Keep your torso straight.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then switch sides.
- Lie on your back and stretch your arms out to your sides. Bring your knees in toward your chest and then drop them over to one side, keeping your knees and hips in line with each other.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then switch sides.
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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.
What Kind Of Weather Makes Arthritis Worse
While research on the link between arthritis and weather is still limited, current studies suggest that there are a few different weather patterns that can have a worsening effect on arthritis pain.
Lower temperatures during colder months are often reported to be a cause of increased joint pain in people with arthritis. Generalized joint pain, more specifically in the knees, is a common complaint that we hear during fall and winter seasons, Lauren Farrell, MSPT, a physical therapist and clinic director of Professional Physical Therapy in Hoboken, New Jersey, tells SELF.
But what is it about the colder months that seems to aggravate arthritis pain? One 2020 study published in Pain Research and Management suggests that, surprisingly, an increase in humidity levels may be to blame. In this particular study, self-reported joint tenderness and pain in participants with rheumatoid arthritis were directly connected to increased humidity levels during winter.2
You might not associate humidity with teeth-chattering weather , but an increase in humidity can actually make frigid temperatures feel even colder. This, in part, explains why people with arthritis might notice more pain during those damp, cold days associated with the Southeastern areas of the United States, as opposed to dry, cold weather in the Southwest. However, experts also believe that this increased pain might have to do with the way that blood flows through the body when were cold.
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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.
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.
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Does Weather Affect Joint Pain
The skies are clear blue, but your ankle starts flaring up with arthritis pain. Could a storm be looming? You feel it in your bones, but is it just an old wives tale? Or can joint pain actually predict weather changes?
Believe it or not, your weather forecasting might have some validity, thanks to the effects of barometric pressure changes on your body.
Its common for people to blame increased pain on the weather, according to Robert Newlin Jamison, PhD, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School and a researcher who has studied weathers effects on chronic pain patients.
But Jamison, who is also the chief psychologist at the Pain Management Center at Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston, has seen patients worry about being ridiculed. For whatever reason, people with chronic pain are real shy about saying it, because they think other people think theyre nuts, he says.
But Jamison doesnt think so. In previous research published in the journal Pain, Jamison looked for an association between weather and chronic pain in four cities: San Diego, Nashville, Boston, and Worcester, a Massachusetts city with much colder temperatures than Boston, he says.
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.
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.
Is The Pain During Rain All In Your Brain
Can you feel the rain coming in your joints? Its an idea that goes back at least to Hippocrates, nearly 2500 years ago: the weather may affect some chronic health conditions. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may already have direct experience with arthritis weather, and some people with other chronic pain conditions report that their pain gets worse when it rains.
Theres a plausible hypothesis for this perceived correlation. Rain typically comes with a drop in barometric pressure: the low pressure system you may have heard your local weather person forecast. Lower pressure outside your body may cause tissues inside your body to swell and irritate sensitive nerves. However, this explanation has not been proven, and some scientists point out that the changes in air pressure are about the same as riding in an elevator to the top of a tall building.
Other scientists speculate that high humidity may be to blame. Or a drop in temperature. Or the psychology of gray, dreary days. Whatever the underlying mechanism may be, the lived experience for many patients is clear: rain days are pain days.
Science has long attempted to study this anecdotal wisdom, but the results have been mixed. Some studies have found no correlation between pain and weather. Others have found evidence to support a connection between pain and low barometric pressure or high humidity. Both high and low temperatures have also had a correlation to pain in some studies.
Does Weather Affect Arthritis Pain
- By Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
Medical myths die hard. Maybe thats because theres no agreement on whether a common belief is indeed a myth.
For example, theres the longstanding belief that weather affects arthritis pain. Many of my patients notice a clear connection some are so convinced of the link, they believe they can predict the weather better than the TV meteorologists. And maybe thats true.
But thats not what the science says. A recent study finds no connection between rainy weather and symptoms of back or joint pain. This conclusion was based on a staggering amount of data: more than 11 million medical visits occurring on more than two million rainy days and nine million dry days. Not only was there no clear pattern linking rainy days and more aches and pains, but there were slightly more visits on dry days.
Still not convinced? Thats understandable. Maybe its not rain or shine that matters maybe its barometric pressure, changes in weather, or humidity that matters most. Or maybe the study missed some key information, such as when symptoms began or got worse after all, it can take days or even weeks after symptoms begin to see a doctor.
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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Consider Acetaminophen Or Nsaids
Even if, like Snow, you prefer to treat your joint pain with lifestyle changes rather than medication, you may want to take an over-the-counter pain reliever when your joint pain seems to worsen with the weather. The ACR guidelines include a recommendation to use these over-the-counter pain relievers for osteoarthritis. However, Libman says that, “to avoid side effects, take the lowest dose for the shortest amount of time, and always check with your doctor first to make sure it is safe for you to take.
Does Alternating Heat And Cold Therapy Help
Many people find it beneficial to alternate between heat and cold therapy. You can switch between hot and cold therapies throughout the day. Usually, its best to wait at around 20 minutes between sessions, though you can also alternate between hot and cold water in the shower. Always start and finish with a cold treatment.
Talk with your doctor before alternating between full-body treatments such as an ice bath and a sauna or hot tub.
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Is There Any Way To Prevent Weather
- Stretch before activity to allow the muscles to warm up and improve flexibility and joint range of motion
- Participate in low impact exercise regularly to improve your heart health and strengthen your muscles to better support your joints
- If the weather is cold, keep yourself warm to reduce joint stiffness by adding layers, taking a warm shower, or turning on your heater
- Take care of your body by getting good sleep, eating well, and staying hydrated
Do You Want To Know How To Permanently Prevent Joint Pains Due To Rain
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So What To Do To Prevent The Aches And Pains
During winter dressing warmly is the key. Paying special attention to the head, hands and feet, as majority of heat is lost from the body’s extremities. Some helpful winter dressing tips include:
- Wear loose layers when going outdoors. Layers traps body heat to keep you warm.
- Wear mittens or gloves to protect your hands.
- Wear a hat or beanie to protect your head.
- Wear a scraf to protect your neck.
- Wear socks and waterproof boots to avoid getting feet wet or damp.
The cold and damp weather can also cause changes to peoples exercise plans. We have an instinct during winter to hibernate however, a lack of physical activity will cause joints to become stiff. Exercise eases arthritis pain. It increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and helps combat fatigue. To manage arthritic conditions during the cooler months, individuals need to plan physical activities that are easy to do during winter, such as:
- Walking indoors, such as around shopping centres
- Household chores, like vacuuming
- Swimming indoors, such as Hydrotherapy
- Taking an aerobics or yoga class
- Listening to music and dancing
- Using the stairs instead of the elevator
- Stretching or doing light exercises while watching TV
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Anything that keeps you moving works.
So when your joints start to warn you of miserable weather ahead, plan a warm routine of indoor exercise, rustle up your cosy clothing, or book yourself a two month holiday to a warmer destination!