Osteoarthritis and weather – are they really linked?

Osteoarthritis and weather - do you feel better when it is warm?

Is there a link between osteoarthritis pain and the weather - do you feel better when it is warm?

Is it true there is a link between osteoarthritis and weather or is this a myth?

Most of my clients over the years have said there is but personally I have never noticed I am particularly bad in damp or cold weather or much better in the warmer weather. Although I do remember one elderly lady who always said the complete opposite about her osteoarthritis and weather changes- the colder the better for her!

However maybe I am wrong as when I looked into this I found some research that suggests there is a link between increased joint pain of osteoarthritis and weather changes. The study was done in 2007 and the researchers were clever in the design of the study. Rather asking people whether they felt there was a link between their osteoarthritis and weather conditions they simple asked people to rate their pain each day and then compared their pain from their knee osteoarthritis and weather conditions for that day.

Methods: We performed a longitudinal analysis of pain reports from a 3-month clinical trial among individuals with knee osteoarthritis dispersed across the United States. Daily values for temperature, barometric pressure, dew point, precipitation, and relative humidity were obtained from the weather station closest to each participant.

They used 200 test subjects and the results showed there was a link between osteoarthritis and weather.

Changes in barometric pressure and ambient temperature are independently associated with osteoarthritis knee pain severity

Hypothetical links between osteoarthritis and weather

These are my theories:

1. The change in pressure alters the pressure inside the joint. It has been shown that pressure inside a joint equalizes itself to air pressure. (As an aside is this why flying makes many people feel so bad and it’s not just the cramped conditions causing us to stiffen up?).

2. Ambient temperature affects blood flow around the body. When it is cold blood is diverted away from our limbs to our torso and head to keep our vital organs warm. Less blood will affect our muscles, so making our joints even stiffer and so more painful.

3. Cold affects our nerve endings, making us more sensitive to the pain in a painful joint.

4. The psychological effect. Bad weather makes us miserable. When we are miserable there is a psychosomatic reflex (brain to muscle as psychosomatic doesn’t mean put on and you can see a fuller explanation at this nothing to do with osteoarthritis and weather article!)

As I said at the start a change in weather doesn’t seem to affect me. Maybe I am not sensitive type? Do you think there is a link between osteoarthritis and weather changes? Perhaps some joints are more affected?

Is your osteoarthritis and weather linked? If they are which joint(s) are affected worst? Leave a comment below and tell us what affects you.

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12 Responses to Osteoarthritis and weather – are they really linked?

  1. Tamara Mitchell says:

    I don’t think weather has a big effect on my arthritis pain. What affects me most is the type of activity I participate in. In a way, it’s probably an inverse relationship to bad weather. If I do strenuous exercise like hiking, jogging, or even too much gardening, I experience a lot more joint pain several hours later…most likely due to inflammation. Also, my weight has a very big effect on joint pain. Not only do some extra pounds result in more impact on my hips, knees, and ankles, it’s known that fat cells release inflammatory compounds! So I think these factors have much more impact than the weather on my pain levels.

    • sophie says:

      I agree. When it rains I rush out and throw food at the horses and rush back inside again! Whereas on a nice day I end up cleaning paddocks and riding. So I am probably worse in good weather but due to increased activity rather than because of the actual weather!

  2. Mary says:

    I agree. I’m a 56 year old female and have it in my fingers. When it is humid my joints swell and become extremely painful to move. Also the extreme cold causes the same reaction. I am 5’4″, weigh 138 and am in excellent health. Very active my whole life. Arthritis does not run in my family either.

  3. teresa says:

    Hi I have read your comments and cannot believe that none of you suffer in this cold weather. the last few weeks have been horrendous for me. it all started when we moved offices, the building was really cold and as I am manager of a care company I also have to go out and tend to clients in their own home if we are stuck for staff again going out into the night when its freezing cold has done me no favours. there has been days when I cannot walk, I have to take time off from work. This weather has made me so depressed because I am in constant pain, I think the doctor is sick of me, I cannot take strong painkiller either, so only have the basic painkiller. I use fenbid three times a day. I worry that I will have to give up work as I cannot keep taking time off I am only 48. My mum, brothers and sister also suffered.

    • Dr. Sophie says:

      There are some people the weather does affect, both making their OA worse and also making them depressed so it may be the whole thing is compounding for you. I have emailed you personally in the hope I can help you in some way.

  4. Trish says:

    Hi Dr. Sophie,
    I haveosteoarthritus in my joints; DJD and have had atotal knee replacement in only one knee. I do not plan on having another one if at all possible. My question to you is concerning my job. I really enjoy it but I need to drive to and from work five days per week, the drive is anywhere from 45 minutes to 70 minutes each way.
    The area in which I work is very expensive and I have a home in which I really like further away from my job site.
    I am 61 years old. I am considering moving to Washington State to be closer to a work site. The area will be much more damp and cool. I like where I live, but the commute is not good. What do you think about my moving to a damper climate and driving less. Would you by chance have any thoughts or suggestions.

  5. Teressa says:

    It does have a great impact. You might not have arthritis if it doesn’t.

  6. Cyril crompton says:

    I was recently dignosed with osteoarthritis in both knees and when the weather changes
    Changes I experience pain in my knees that is so severe I have to call out from
    Work. Do you have any suggestions to ease the pain? I will be great full.

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