Weather and Joint Pain

Some people may experience joint and muscle pain when there is a weather change, alterations in barometric pressure, and during high humidity. Although the effect is real, a study reviewing the available evidence on the topic showed limited scientific evidence to determine the cause of this phenomenon.

Does a change in pressure cause joint pain?

The short answer is Yes. Some people do experience pain during weather changes. However, the reason for this is poorly understood. People with arthritis, chronic pain or a history of broken bones commonly experience an ache in the affected area during weather changes.

Although not proven yet, there are some theories amongst researchers why this occurs in some people. One theory explores that nerves in damaged joints may be irritated during weather changes which flare up pain signals.

Another theory is that due to barometric pressure changes, the muscles, bones, scar tissue and tendons expand and contract, resulting in pain and microtrauma of the affected sites.

Again, these are just theories and more research is required to determine the cause of the pain experienced during weather changes.

Weather types that cause joint pain

Weather related pain and arthritis

Many people who experience this phenomenon explain that they can sometimes feel when the weather is about to change as they experience a mild ache in the affected area. This can occur even without the person knowing there is a weather change on the way.

This is even experienced by younger people who have broken bones. Some of the weather changes that can bring on symptoms include:

  • Cold weather
  • Wet damp weather
  • changes in weather from hot to cold
  • When there is a storm close by and there is a drop in barometric pressure

Stable dry and warm weather is believed to be the best weather for not experiencing this weather-related pain.

 

Does high or low barometric pressure cause joint pain?

Having aches and pains during changes in barometric pressure is experienced widely around the world. Particularly in people with arthritis, have broken a bone in the past, and in people with fibromyalgia. Although the jury is out in relation to the evidence to why this occurs, it appears that some people are more prone to experience this pain than others.

Does a change in weather make arthritis worse?

Arthritis and weather related pain

Cold weather or weather changes may cause some people with arthritis to experience increased joint aches and pains. This may occur just before it rains, before a storm, during high humidity days and when there is a change in pressure.

A change in weather can increase pain in certain people, and can make arthritis feel worse during that period of weather change.

Although more research is needed, treatment with medications and alternative therapies may be used as a treatment when there is a predictable change in the weather conditions. The aim of this is to improve the quality of life for people who suffer from increased arthritic pain during weather changes.

Osteoarthritis and weather changes

There have been some studies on the associations between osteoarthritis sufferers and changes in weather conditions. This study determined there is a causal relationship between increased pain and changes in weather, but the cause is yet to be determined.

Unstable weather conditions have a more significant impact on joint structures and pain perception in certain areas of the world. A study showed that people with osteoarthritis from southern Europe were more sensitive to weather-related changes. This change was closely associated with high humidity, cold weather and during weather changes.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and joint pain

A study was performed in relation to weather changes and people with rheumatoid arthritis. The study showed that between 12%-61% of study participants had changes in their pain due to changes in weather and solar-related factors.

This study also identified that some people were more affected by weather changes than others. A fascinating finding! Their findings found that 1 in 6 people was “weather-sensitive” and was more likely to experience symptoms during weather changes. The cause of this not yet known.

Furthermore, data from a study showed that up to 74% of people with arthritis experienced increased pain with weather changes.

Chronic diseases and pain during weather changes

Given there are certain types of people who weather-sensitive, there appears to be a connection between the number of chronic diseases and the risk of experiencing pain during weather changes for people with osteoarthritis.

People who have the following conditions may be at higher risk of experiencing weather related pain symptoms:

  • chronic lung disease
  • cardio-vascular diseases
  • peripheral artery diseases
  • diabetes
  • stroke
  • are a smoker
  • have cancer
  • diagnosed with osteoporosis

If you have two or more of these conditions and have osteoarthritis, you are at greater risk of experiencing weather related pain to joints and muscles.

Increased pain during weather changes for fibromyalgia suffers

 There have been some reports that people who suffer from fibromyalgia have an increased sensitivity to weather changes.

Individuals with fibromyalgia often complain of increased joint and muscle pain during weather changes, but there is little research to show the correlation between the two.

However, as more research is conducted, there appears to be an influence of weather on fatigue and pain levels in female suffers. In a self-reporting study, pain levels change during weather conditions and suggest that low barometric pressure is related to increased pain.

Related article:

Take home message

There is no doubt people are experiencing joint and muscle symptoms when there are weather changes, but more research is required to determine the cause of this phenomenon.

References

  1. Bossema, E.R., van Middendorp, H., Jacobs, J.W.G., Bijlsma, J.W.J. and Geenen, R. (2013), Influence of Weather on Daily Symptoms of Pain and Fatigue in Female Patients With Fibromyalgia: A Multilevel Regression Analysis. Arthritis Care & Research, 65: 1019-1025. https://doi.org/10.1002/acr.22008
  2. Erik J. Timmermans, Laura A. Schaap, Florian Herbolsheimer, Elaine M. Dennison, Stefania Maggi, Nancy L. Pedersen, Maria Victoria Castell, Michael D. Denkinger, Mark H. Edwards, Federica Limongi, Mercedes Sánchez-Martínez, Paola Siviero, Rocio Queipo, Richard Peter, Suzan van der Pas and Dorly J.H. Deeg for the EPOSA Research GroupThe Journal of Rheumatology October 2015, 42 (10) 1885-1892; DOI: https://doi.org/10.3899/jrheum.141594
  3. Fagerlund AJ, Iversen M, Ekeland A, Moen CM, Aslaksen PM (2019) Blame it on the weather? The association between pain in fibromyalgia, relative humidity, temperature and barometric pressure. PLOS ONE 14(5): e0216902. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0216902
  4. Fors EA, Sexton HWeather and the pain in fibromyalgia: are they related?Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2002;61:247-250
  5. NG, J., SCOTT, D., TANEJA, A., GOW, P. and GOSAI, A. (2004), Weather changes and pain in rheumatology patients. APLAR Journal of Rheumatology, 7: 204-206. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-8077.2004.00099.x
  6. Quick DC. Joint pain and weather. A critical review of the literature. Minnesota Medicine. 1997 Mar;80(3):25-29.
  7. Smedslund, G., Mowinckel, P., Heiberg, T., Kvien, T.K. and Hagen, K.B. (2009), Does the weather really matter? A cohort study of influences of weather and solar conditions on daily variations of joint pain in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Arthritis & Rheumatism, 61: 1243-1247. https://doi.org/10.1002/art.24729
  8. Timmermans, E.J., van der Pas, S., Schaap, L.A. et al. Self-perceived weather sensitivity and joint pain in older people with osteoarthritis in six European countries: results from the European Project on OSteoArthritis (EPOSA). BMC Musculoskelet Disord 15, 66 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2474-15-66

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Emilie MASI

Registered Nurse, Masters in Advanced Nursing Practice Graduate Diploma of Wound Care Working towards Masters of Wound Care

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Arthritis and joint pain can increase in cold weather, during weather changes and high humidity. Rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia symptoms can also get worse during weather changes and cold weather conditions. #fibromyalgia #arthritis #osteoarthritis #rheumatoidarthritis #coldweather #weatherchanges