Summer weather — with thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes — is upon us. You may even feel it in your joints when a storm is coming. In fact, many people can predict the weather (at least as well as the TV meteorologists) based upon these feelings in their bones and joints.
Many patients and doctors also report that arthritis pain gets worse when barometric pressure in the atmosphere falls. Patients with fibromyalgia also report fluctuations in pain related to the weather.
Some recent scientific studies support what people have reported for centuries about the connection between weather and arthritis pain. In fact, in one recent study I told you about in 2014, Dutch researchers followed pain levels in patients with osteoarthritis of the hip over the course of two years. They then went back and matched reported pain levels against daily weather records.
They found when barometric pressure changed and humidity levels increased, joint pain and stiffness increased. In fact, with each 10 percent increase in humidity and each one-third inch change in barometric pressure, pain scores worsened.
I have always assumed that as barometric pressure in the atmosphere falls (like before and during a “low pressure” system storm), the pressure inside your joint compartments changes, which affects the nerve endings.
And apparently Dr. Fotios Koumpouras, a rheumatologist and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine, agrees.
Highly sensitive joint ligaments fire off pain signals
In a recent interview, he said, “The ligaments contain these very specialized receptors, and they are stretch receptors. These stretch receptors, particularly in the joints that may have arthritis, could be hypersensitive. And small changes in pressure, may in fact allow these receptors to fire.”
Stretch receptors, and the pain signals they send, also help protect joints against over-exertion and injury. They flare when you overstress your joints beyond their limits as when you over-exert or exercise beyond reasonable limits. That’s one big reason why it’s not wise to ignore joint pain and just keep going when your body is telling you to stop.
Bad or extreme weather can also depress your mood, which, in turn, can decrease your pain thresholds. Plus, when it is cold or rainy, most people limit activity and stay indoors. They are less likely to get outside for that natural boost from Nature. They’re also less likely to get some moderate outdoor exercise, which helps keep joints supple and boosts mood.
We should also always consider the role of expectations when it comes to pain. It works rather like the placebo effect. You see, since conventional wisdom tells us bad weather causes painful joints, you may simply expect this will be the case. The Weather Channel even uses a weather map showing their “aches and pains index” to try to forecast how your joints will feel with their predicted weather. (It’s usually accompanied by an ad for some mainstream “pain reliever” pill.)
Natural ways to prevent and reverse arthritis pain
Of course, the weather is a natural factor you cannot control. But there are many natural approaches to preventing and even reversing arthritis pain that you CAN control. Key elements are diet and moderate exercise.
First, remember to avoid sugars and carbs. In fact, I recommend avoiding all processed foods as best you can. Eat vegetables and probiotic foods, such as sauerkraut and Korean kimchi. Foods high in omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as fish, also support joint health.
I also recommend starting a daily regimen of dietary supplements shown to support joint health — including fish oil and vitamin D. Also consider adding in herbal remedies such like my ABCs of joint health — ashwaganda (winter cherry, or Withania sominferum), boswellia (frankincense), and curcumin (turmeric). Ginger is also useful as a food and/or supplement.
For all the details on preventing and reversing arthritis pain, in any weather, check out my new online Arthritis Relief and Repair Protocol.
“Study Finds Link Between Weather, Joint Pain,” CBS News (www.boston.cbslocal.com) 1/16/14
“Associations between weather conditions and clinical symptoms in patients with hip osteoarthritis: A 2-year cohort study,”Pain: Journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain, published online 1/24/2014