So many of us swear when we get up in the morning, we can tell exactly what the weather forecast is simply by how our joints react. Now, the scientific evidence to back this up is accumulating, giving credence to this and putting a dent in the minds of naysayers.
But why do we feel this pain in our joints in the first place? Although people may say their pain gets worse when it is rainy, damp or cold, the fact is that some research has shown it is the change barometric pressure or the pressure of the atmosphere itself that often accompanies those changes in weather.
The definition of Barometric pressure is the actual “weight” of the air around us. This weight exerts a force (pressure) on us and everything around us. As the weather changes, this pressure goes up or down and it is this change that is assumed to affect our joints.
Think of the muscle and tissues around a joint to be like a balloon. When the barometric pressure increases, it pushes against that balloon and does not let it expand. When barometric pressure decreases (as when rainy weather occurs) it allows that balloon to expand and that can “hypothetically” translate into joint pain.
Results from a recent study in the UK by the University of Manchester (oh-so appropriately titled “Cloudy With a Chance of Pain”) used a special smartphone app to help over 9,000 participants record their daily pain levels. This app included the ability to chronicle hourly weather conditions using the phone’s own GPS. The advantage of this is that researchers were able to match the pain data with real-time, local weather conditions.
What the data showed is that when the number of sunny or fair weather days increased (from February to April in this case), the total time the participants experienced pain decreased. Then in contrast to this, during June when the weather typically is rainy and cloudy, the amount of time they encountered severe pain increased.
Admittedly this was only an 18-month study and is not yet complete, but the initial results are highly intriguing. And this is obviously not a new concept as Pat Anson, Editor of PainNewsNetwork.com, is quick to point out:
“The Greek philosopher Hippocrates in 400 B.C was one of the first to note that changes in the weather can affect pain levels. Although a large body of folklore has reinforced the belief that there is a link between weather and pain, the science behind it is mixed.”
And she is correct. As she also notes, “A 2014 study in Australia found that low back pain is not associated with temperature, humidity and rain. A 2013 Dutch study also concluded that weather has no impact on fibromyalgia symptoms in women.”
But this is the beauty of research! A hypothesis (or idea) cannot become a theory until it is tested by others and substantiated with the same repeatable results. Nevertheless, I love the fact that the Arthritis Foundation has seen fit to put a link on their web site to “joint pain level indicator based on local weather” (Arthritis.org). This will at least give those of us who do use their joints as a weather barometer a place to go for confirmation!
Kam, Katherine. “Does Weather Affect Joint Pain?” WebMD.com. Pain Management. 11 Mar 2014. Web. 9 August 2016.
“Study Finds Evidence of Connection Between Arthritis Flare-Ups and Weather Conditions.” Mercola.com. 20 March 2016. Web. 9 September 2016.
“Local Weather: Predict Your Joint Pain Level Based On Local Weather.” Arthrtis.org. Arthritis Foundation.
Anson, Pat. “Study Finds Link Between Weather and Chronic Pain.” Painnewsnetwork.com. Pain News Network. 11 Sept 2016. Web. 12 Sept 2016.
Image credit: Clipartkid.com
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