Medically reviewed by
Dr. Thomas DiStefano
McLeod Orthopaedics Cheraw
Hippocrates – a Greek physician in the ancient age of Pericles and known as the father of medicine – blamed the weather for his aching joints. More recently, the New York Times wrote about a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston declaring, “Weather affects pain no matter where people live.”
“People with arthritis and, possibly, planning for a joint replacement tell us the weather affects their joints,” says McLeod Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Thomas DiStefano. “Even though about 75% of people living with arthritis believe the weather affects their pain, research has produced contradictory findings.”
Groups in many of the studies were small or the studies were of limited duration, both of which can compromise the research findings. With that word of caution, here’s what the research shows.
IT’S NOT WHERE YOU LIVE
Many people move from the cold, snowy Northeast to the Southwest or Southeast, thinking the warmer weather will bring relief from their joint pain. Eventually, they acclimate to the new climate, but — when the weather changes — the periods of pain persist.
Surprisingly, younger people seem to be affected worse than older folks.
THE “REAL CULPRIT”?
One researcher concluded that barometric pressure was probably the real culprit, claiming that when the barometric pressure falls, body tissues – tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones – may expand and provoke sensitive nerves. If the cartilage in the joint is worn away, it could be that nerves in the exposed bone are affected by the change in barometric readings.
Other potential triggers include precipitation, humidity and temperature. Rain or snow can bring on pain. Cold, damp windy weather seems to have the most effect on pain. If it’s accompanied by a low barometric pressure, every 10-degree drop in temperature results in more arthritic pain. Rain by itself or a change in temperature alone does not seem to provoke more pain.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
No matter what the weather does, you don’t have to live with joint pain. Schedule an appointment with an Orthopedic Specialist, who can discuss treatments including non-surgical approaches.
Find an Orthopedic Specialist near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, Harvard Health, New York Times, University of Manchester, The Weather Channel, Nature.com