Weather and arthritis pain have been associated for a long time. When it gets cold, rainy, humid, or the barometric pressure rises, many report that symptoms get worse.
And now that much of the continent (and world) is in a humid heat wave, symptoms might be getting worse.
Now the heat isn’t typically associated with increased arthritis pain, but humidity and barometric pressure are. These conditions, where there is a lot of moisture in the air, and the risk for inclement weather rises, can occur in the summer, fall, and winter.
But science remains unsure if the weather really plays a role in joint pain. There is no shortage of studies on the topic, but there is a lack of consistent findings.
Three recent studies looked at this phenomenon, and each found that weather impacted arthritis to some degree.
One study featured 222 participants with arthritis of the hip. The researchers found that patients reported slightly worse pain and stiffness as barometric pressure and humidity rose, but the weather effect was small.
Another study looked at weather-related symptoms among 800 European adults with arthritis in the knees, hips, or hands. They tended to report more pain and stiffness with higher humidity, especially in cold weather. Once again, in general, the impact was minor.
One more study featuring 2,600 people with chronic pain symptoms (most had some type of arthritis) found a “modest relationship” between pain and higher humidity, lower atmospheric pressure, and wind speed.
Humidity, temperature, precipitation and barometric pressure all may play a role in arthritis pain. However, it may come down to individual cases. Meaning that it might impact how some people experience symptoms but not others.
Is there anything that you can do? If you notice that different weather patterns impact your arthritis, it may impact the way you manage pain. That could mean paying attention to the weather so you can run errands on days where it is less likely to worsen pain.
It’s also wise to focus on overall pain management, whether it is through your diet, stretching and mobility exercises, medication, and any other treatment you’ve discussed with your doctor.