In south Louisiana, we are well aware of the fact that the heat and humidity affects us physically. It makes us sweat more and, as many women will attest, can ruin your hairstyle. Can it also make arthritis pain worse? Many of us have had older relatives who claimed that they could predict when it was going to rain by a “flare up” of joint pain. Is it scientifically possible for the weather to affect joint pain, or are there other factors at play? And if the weather does affect joint pain, would moving to a better climate help?
Let’s discuss the research on the relation between weather and joint pain, and whether moving will help you in the long run.
What Science Says About Humidity and Joint Pain
Believe it or not, those who claim the humidity affects their joints might be on to something. There have been studies on how weather can affect joint pain, and although there is no complete consensus that weather changes can affect joint pain, studies have shown the two might be related. However, the leading theory states that the changes in air pressure that accompany weather changes, rather than the weather itself, cause joint pain.
Although we can’t see or feel it, the air surrounding us has weight and takes up space. This weight creates pressure that pushes against our bodies from the outside, preventing the tissues in our bodies from expanding. However, before it rains, the air pressure often drops. Because there is less air pressure pushing against our bodies, our tissues can expand. It’s a microscopic change that is barely perceptible, but those who have arthritis may be more sensitized to the pressure due to inflammation and joint damage. This theory is plausible because changes in pressure do affect us physically. At high altitudes, there is lower air pressure; this is why plane cabins are pressurized. Even with pressurized cabins, some people find that their feet swell during a flight.
Does That Mean You Should Move?
If a rainy, humid climate can actually make arthritis pain worse, will moving to an area with a drier climate make it better? Don’t pack up and move just yet! In the long run, it won’t make a difference. Sometimes, when people vacation in areas with drier climates, they do report less pain. However, people don’t normally do their everyday activities while on vacation. Those who move to a drier climate will often find that their pain returns once they resume normal activities. The problem is that even if you eliminate the factors that make your pain worse, you cannot reverse the damage done by arthritis. There is treatment that can slow the progression of arthritis, but there is no cure. Those with very painful, advanced arthritis often need joint replacement surgery to improve their pain.
Also, keep in mind that no environment is arthritis-proof. People who live in drier areas like Arizona experience arthritis pain too. Often, our bodies can adjust to the new climate and detect changes in the air pressure. While moving may help you feel better temporarily, your pain will more than likely return.
If arthritis pain is affecting your everyday life, see a specialist who can help you manage your symptoms. The right treatment can help to minimize your pain and slow the progression of arthritis. In the long run, that will help you much more than moving to a drier climate.