Do Joints Ache More When the Weather Changes?

Do Joints Ache More When the Weather Changes?

Older adults and people with past injuries often complain of stiff achy joints, and many swear they can predict the weather, based on their degree of joint discomfort. This is an ages-old phenomenon that has only recently drawn serious attention from the health community. While research is scarce on the topic, there is a handful of recent studies that shed light on the relationship between weather changes and joint pain.

Weather Change and Joint Pain

Most people whose joints tell them the weather is about to change find a correlation between specific weather conditions and joint flare-ups. The most commonly reported episodes involve cold weather and joint pain, and barometric pressure also appears to play a role.

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The most common conditions that affect joint pain are:

  • Cold temperatures: Many joint pain sufferers feel increased pain as temperatures drop. Take extra measures to keep achy joints warm, and try to stay active.
  • Barometric pressure fluctuations: Shifts in air pressure can cause your joints to expand and contract, affecting tendons, muscles and scar tissue, and increasing joint pain.
  • Humidity: During increased humidity, the fluid level in your joints rises, increasing pressure on you cells and making them ache.
  • Weather-related changes in activity: When the weather gets cold and gloomy, you are less likely to venture outdoors and be active. Being sedentary slows down circulation, and fewer distractions may cause you to focus more on your pain. Bad weather also affects your mood, which can make you hyper aware of joint pain.

Find our more about sacroiliac joint pain here

Common Causes of Chronic Joint Pain

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There are multiple conditions that can cause chronic joint pain, and many can be treated and resolved with physical therapy:

When joints are already stiff and achy, changes in the weather may make them feel worse. People have associated increased joint pain with weather changes for centuries, and the medical research community is finally listening.

Recent Research on Weather and Joint Pain

The body of research on weather and joint pain is sparse, but a few recent studies have attempted to establish a link, with varying results.

  • A 2015 study of more than 800 participants with hip, knee or hand osteoarthritis linked high humidity to increased joint pain and stiffness, especially in colder temperatures (Timmermans et al. 2015)
  • Another study of 200 participants with knee osteoarthritis found a connection between changes in barometric pressure and ambient temperature, and the severity of knee pain (McAlindon et al. 2007).
  • In 2014, a case crossover study of 993 patients with sudden acute back pain found no correlation between temperature, humidity, rain or barometric pressure and sudden onset of low back pain (Steffens et al. 2014).
  • Another study used records of almost 3 million patients receiving Medicare to see if the incidence of doctor visits with reports of joint pain increased on rainy days and concluded they did not (Jena et al. 2017)
  • A fairly new study used a smart phone app to collect daily reports of joint pain and weather from 2658 patients over a 15-month period. They found a significant relationship between pain and changes in weather conditions, such as humidity, barometric pressure and high winds. Even after accounting for physical activity and mood, the correlation remained strong (Dixon et al. 2019).

Just because there is not a wealth of research to strongly support a link between weather and pain, it does not mean a relationship does not exist. Pain is perceptual, and only you know what your joints are telling you, and under what circumstances your pain flares up. At the end of the day, if you think you hurt more, you are right.

Reducing Joint Pain During Weather Changes

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There are a few things you can do to protect your joints during weather changes to make them less achy:

  • Layer up. Dressing in layers protects your joints and muscles from the cold by trapping in heat. It prevents your blood vessels from receding, ensuring a warm flow of blood to keep your joints warm and pliant.
  • Keep moving! Many people think that rest is always best for achy joints, but the fact is that movement helps protect your joints by strengthening the muscles and connective tissues that support them. Regular exercise also keeps joints fluid and moving through their full range of motion.
  • Manage your body weight. Carrying extra weight puts extra load on your joints, increasing the work they have to do and adding to your aches and pains.
  • Use heat pads. Applying heat increases circulation and relaxes tight muscles that contribute to joint pain.
  • Adopt healthy lifestyle habits. Eat nutritious whole foods that help build collagen in your joints. Join a gym and do resistance training. Get plenty of sleep. And keep a positive mental outlook.

Joint Pain Treatment in NYC

If you suffer from chronic joint pain, physical therapy can help. At NYDNRehab, we use advanced technologies and innovative treatment methods to identify the source of pain and eliminate it.

Our high-tech toolbox includes:

  • Highest resolution diagnostic ultrasound to view the joints and their surrounding tissues, and uncover the underlying cause of pain.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) feedback to improve joint loading patterns and movement efficiency.
  • Kineo Intelligent Load system to strengthen muscles without overloading achy joints.

In addition to our high-tech equipment, we use manual therapies, shock wave therapy and injection therapies to restore pain-free joint function and optimize joint range of motion, so you can enjoy the best quality of life. Don’t wait for the weather to change to get pain relief for your achy joints. Contact the joint pain specialists at NYDNR today.

Resources:

CDixon, William G., et al. “How the weather affects the pain of citizen scientists using a smartphone app.” NPJ digital medicine 2.1 (2019): 1-9.

Jena, Anupam B., et al. “Association between rainfall and diagnoses of joint or back pain: retrospective claims analysis.” bmj 359 (2017).

McAlindon, Tim, et al. “Changes in barometric pressure and ambient temperature influence osteoarthritis pain.” The American journal of medicine 120.5 (2007): 429-434.

Steffens, Daniel, et al. “Effect of Weather on Back Pain: Results From a Case‐Crossover Study.” Arthritis care & research 66.12 (2014): 1867-1872.

Timmermans, Erik J., et al. “The influence of weather conditions on joint pain in older people with osteoarthritis: results from the European Project on OSteoArthritis.” The Journal of rheumatology 42.10 (2015): 1885-1892.

Range of Available Unique Physical Therapy Treatments at Nydnrehab

About the Author

Dr. Lev Kalika is clinical director of NYDNRehab, located in Manhattan. Lev Kalika is the author of multiple medical publications and research, and an international expert in the field of rehabilitative sonography, ultrasound guided dry needling and sports medicine Dr. Kalika works with athletes, runners, dancers and mainstream clients to relieve pain, rehabilitate injuries, enhance performance and minimize the risk of injuries. His clinic features some of the most technologically advanced equipment in the world, rarely found in a private clinic.

130 West 42 Street Suite 1055, New York NY 10036

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In this instance, an athlete was originally diagnosed with minor quadriceps muscle strain and was treated for four weeks, with unsatisfactory results. When he came to our clinic, the muscle was not healing, and the patients’ muscle tissue had already begun to atrophy.

Upon examination using MSUS, we discovered that he had a full muscle thickness tear that had been overlooked by his previous provider. To mitigate damage and promote healing, surgery should have been performed immediately after the injury occurred. Because of misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment, the patient now has permanent damage that cannot be corrected.

The most important advantage of Ultrasound over MRI imaging is its ability to zero in on the symptomatic region and obtain imaging, with active participation and feedback from the patient. Using dynamic MSUS, we can see what happens when patients contract their muscles, something that cannot be done with MRI. From a diagnostic perspective, this interaction is invaluable.

Dynamic ultrasonography examination demonstrating
the full thickness tear and already occurring muscle atrophy
due to misdiagnosis and not referring the patient
to proper diagnostic workup

Demonstration of how very small muscle defect is made and revealed
to be a complete tear with muscle contraction
under diagnostic sonography (not possible with MRI)

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Complete tear of rectus femoris
with large hematoma (blood)

image

Separation of muscle ends due to tear elicited
on dynamic sonography examination

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