Most of us know that person. Or we are that person. The one who believes he or she can predict snow, rain or any kind of weather event simply by when their body – specifically their joints – hurt more. The question is, are such assessments accurate? Can someone really forecast the weather from physical sensations like aches and pains?
People will swear to having weather-related flare ups. Further, a number of studies and surveys seem to back up such claims. Some research has shown that even cadavers experience changes joint pressure when barometric pressure changes [source: Goodman].
Among the living, however, those who experience physical weather alerts tend to be those who have a predisposition toward joint problems. For instance, people with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis (RA) regularly report physical reactions to the weather. RA is a disease that causes inflammation of the joint tissues and can cause joint cartilage to wear away. A common symptom of the disease is morning joint stiffness; those with RA tend to report more of this on days when the weather changes [source: NIH].
The reasons for these sensations are not fully understood. Some experts believe that increased barometric pressure adds force against the body, which can lead to a painful swelling of joint tissue. However, this explanation doesn't explain why temperature also affects weather-related joint pain. A 2007 Tufts University study found that arthritis pain increases incrementally each time the outside temperature drops 10 degrees Fahrenheit (5.6 degrees Celsius) [source: Goodman].
Those living with arthritis aren't the only ones who feel more pain when the weather changes. Those with back pain or who have suffered bone and joint injuries in the past tend to notice differences, as well. But some researchers are casting doubt on the accuracy of such occurrences. A 2014 Australian study published in Arthritis Care & Research found no link between back pain and weather phenomena. Researchers admitted, however, that more studies are needed – especially considering the number of people who self-report weather-related pain.
Keep reading for lots more information about weather and pain.
- Cleveland Clinic. "The Weather and Arthritis: Does Rain Increase Pain?" June 14, 2012. (Sept. 24, 2014) http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2012/06/the-weather-and-arthritis-does-rain-increase-pain/
- Fisher, Scott. "Bones ache? It's probably going to rain." Sun Sentinel. March 24, 2013. (Sept. 24, 2014.) http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2013-03-24/news/fl-rain-in-bones-20130324_1_bones-weather-spotter-barometric-pressure
- Goodman, Brenda. "Weather and Arthritis Pain." Arthritis Today. 2014. (Sept. 24, 2014) http://www.arthritistoday.org/about-arthritis/arthritis-pain/living-with-pain/weather-pain.php
- Kam, Katherine. "Does Weather Affect Joint Pain?" WebMD. March 11, 2014. (Sept. 24, 2014) http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/features/weather_and_pain
- National Institutes of Health. "When the Weather Gets Cold." January 2009. (Sept. 24, 2014) http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2009/January/feature1.htm
- Steffens, Daniel et al. "Effect of Weather on Back Pain: Results From a Case-Crossover Study." Arthritis Care & Research. December 2014. (July 15, 2015) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/acr.22378/abstract