By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – You or someone you know may claim to be able to predict the weather based on joint paint.

So, can your joints actually forecast the weather?

“I get a lot of calls from my patients in fact, tell me, ‘Doc, I know it’s going to rain because my joints are aching, my knees are aching,’” Dr. Fotios Koumpouras said.

Previous studies show no link, but more research from Europe as recent as 2013 shows there is.

“There was a definite association between temperature, and in one instance, barometric pressure and joint pain,” Dr. Koumpouras said.

It’s not completely understood, but the prevailing theory is that as barometric pressure falls, as you would get with a storm, the pressure inside your joints changes, too. As pressure outside drops, the pressure inside the joint pushes out, against tissues and structures with a lot of nerve endings.

“The ligaments contain these very specialized receptors, and they are stretch receptors,” Dr. Koumpouras said. “These stretch receptors, particularly in joints that may have arthritis, could be hypersensitive. And small changes in pressure, atmospheric pressure, may in fact allow these receptors to fire.”

While the theory is yet unproven, joint pain with weather change in some people has been consistent over generations, typically in the weight-bearing joints, like the hips, low back, and knees, and also the fingers.

If you are affected this way there are some things you can do:

  • A dehumidifier can smooth out any spikes in dampness.
  • Sealing doors and carpeting floors can keep drafts out.
  • Taking a pain reliever or anti-inflammatory before a storm can help with the aches and pains.
  • Also dressing warmly or putting warm compresses on aching joints may lessen the impact of the weather change.

While these symptoms may indicate moderate to severe arthritis, it does not mean you have a worse course or outcome.


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Dr. Maria Simbra