Weather and joint pain: It’s no wives’ tale

Joint Health

by Mohamed Nizar Mahomed, MD

May 1, 2023

Can the weather really cause joint pain?

It’s no wives’ tale—people with arthritis and other joint conditions may be able to tell when the weather is going to change.

Cold and damp weather tend to make joint pain worse, particularly in people with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other disorders involving the joints. Even people who developed post-traumatic arthritis from past sports injuries can experience this.

The weather-joint pain connection

Although researchers have studied the weather-pain connection for years, we still can’t definitively say why some people can physically feel a shift in outdoor conditions. One theory is that the drop in barometric pressure before a storm or cold front may trigger joint aches and swelling in some people. This decreasing pressure means air presses a little less on your body, allowing tissues to swell slightly, which can irritate your joints.

The speed at which the pressure changes also makes a difference. A sudden drop in pressure as a storm blows into town creates more noticeable aches than a slow, gradual pressure decline.

Cold weather may also worsen symptoms by constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow, causing stiffness.

How to get relief from weather-related joint pain

Texans are most likely to experience weather-related pain during fall and winter. While our winters are generally mild, frequent cold fronts and occasional winter storms can still make your joints ache. Spring thunderstorms can also trigger it.

While there’s no cure for weather-related pain, there are many simple steps you can take to minimize your discomfort. The next time the weather gives your joints grief, try these tips for relief:

Warm up

Keep your home well heated and warm up your car before driving to reduce cold-weather-related joint pain.

Stop the swelling

Wear compression stockings or gloves to minimize swelling when the weather shifts. You can also take an anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen (unless your doctor recommends otherwise), or apply heat or ice to the swollen area.

Stay active

Walk or perform other low-impact indoor activities to help move synovial fluid through your joints, which can help reduce stiffness and pain. But be careful not to do too much or you could aggravate the swelling.

Tired of joint pain? Discover how you can move better.

About the Author

Mohamed Nizar Mahomed, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon practicing in the Dallas area. He specializes in adult hip and knee reconstruction, lower extremity trauma, knee arthroscopy, and knee and hip injuries. Dr. Mahomed also uses robotics in surgery to enhance patient care.

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