Osteoarthritis and the Weather
“Blame it on the rain” -Milli Vanilli, 1989
Is all this rain getting to you? I suspect it is getting to some more than others. Many physiotherapy patients are certain of the link between joint pain and the weather and some have even stated that not only can they predict the weather based on their pain, they can also identify the type of precipitation that is imminent.
If this is true that joint pain can worsen as the weather changes – how does this happen? Several studies have examined this but remain inconclusive. Some studies show that a changing barometric pressure is responsible, some suggest humidity is the culprit. Some researchers tried using decompression chambers and varying humidity levels to look for changes. Perhaps there is a combination of variables that affect pain.
A Dutch study looked at 222 individuals with hip arthritis to find a correlation between weather types and pain. Over two years, complaints of pain were slightly worse when pressure and humidity rose.1
Timmermans et al examined the symptoms of 810 patients with arthritis in the hands, knee or hip. A high humidity was found to correlate to increasing pain, especially when combined with cold weather.2
4548 individuals were followed in Japan for a month and their symptoms were matched against local weather data to look for any effect of temperature and humidity on physical symptoms. Joint pain was associated with higher temperatures and higher humidity.3
Unless we learn how to control the weather, it is unlikely that all this research will have any impact on how we treat osteoarthritis; however, it may assist us in better understanding pain and why some individuals are affected by different circumstances.
Although we can’t change the weather, we can change pain due to arthritis. Physiotherapists have ways of modulating pain, improving joint mechanics, and assisting with optimizing function. So, if you find you’re hurting more lately, don’t blame it on the rain, come and see us.
- Dorleijn, D. M., Luijsterburg, P. A., Burdorf, A., Rozendaal, R. M., Verhaar, J. A., Bos, P. K., & Bierma-Zeinstra, S. M. (2014). Associations between weather conditions and clinical symptoms in patients with hip osteoarthritis: a 2-year cohort study. PAIN®, 155(4), 808-813.
- Timmermans, E. J., Van Der Pas, S., Schaap, L. A., Sánchez-Martínez, M., Zambon, S., Peter, R., … & Siviero, P. (2014). 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 musculoskeletal disorders, 15(1), 66.
- Lee, M., Ohde, S., Urayama, K., Takahashi, O., & Fukui, T. (2018). Weather and health symptoms. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(8), 1670.
Ray | Jun 11, 2019 at 6:07 am
I would bet it has more to do with barometric pressure. Maybe that’s what needs to be studied more.
Janice | Jun 11, 2019 at 1:10 pm
I believe our bodies respond to environmental changes and weather would be just one of them. It may not be the low pressure system alone that causes pain, but the change in the pressure. Pascal’s law states that this change in pressure may cause subtle expansion or contraction of the joint capsule, and if a joint is already irritable may manifest as worsening of symptoms.
Billy | Jun 13, 2019 at 3:55 am
My father-in-law swears he can tell when it will rain
WIN | Jun 16, 2019 at 6:00 am
Wow, I thought this was an old wives tale
Acram | Jun 20, 2019 at 8:39 am
Thanks for the great article
Pingback:Physiotherapy for knee osteoarthritis - Great Lakes Physiotherapy in Ajax and Whitby | Jun 20, 2019 at 5:12 pm
TH | Jun 20, 2019 at 11:49 pm
I have osteoarthritis and I am comfortable in the cooler temperatures. When the seasons change to a warmer spring or hot summer, that’s when my joints become uncomfortable making me miserable.
The heavier barometric presssure actually eases my pain.
Are there others who experience this as well?
Ray | Jun 21, 2019 at 10:12 am
Yes. Winter or cold weather don’t bother me. Warm weather does