The Weather and your Joints

Most patients are convinced that there is a link between weather patterns and how their muscles and joints feel. This belief almost certainly pre-dates the ancient Greeks (one of whom, Hippocrates, believed it too).

This new study debunks this – perhaps. See my final point.

But there are probably lots of weather mechanisms that might create changes in the body.

For example, it may not be rainfall per se that triggers a rise in joint pain (a phenomenon often reported by rheumatoid arthritis sufferers) but rather the drop in atmospheric pressure that normally (but not always) accompanies wet weather. The explanation for this is mooted as;

  • Swollen rheumatoid joints are already in a high-pressure state (relative to the rest of the body).
  • Lowering atmospheric pressure will make this relatively high intra-joint pressure even greater.
  • Hence even worse symptoms.

And then there is the sunshine effect which we know works through raising feel-good nitric oxide levels in the body and not just Vitamin D.

Warmer weather makes all our skeletal muscle seem to function better – up to a point.

Back to that study.

Researchers looked into the details of 11 million visits to GPs undertaken by more than 1.5 million US pensioners between 2008 and 2012 to see if there was a correlation between rainfall and the number of patients reporting joint or back pain. However, they found nothing of note and concluded that the study was so large that, although “it’s hard to prove a negative,” it is inconceivable that they would not have spotted a link if one existed. Lead author Professor Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Health Care Policy said.

Well, based on my experience, what patients say – as wet weather or low pressure develops – is that their regular aches and pains just seem to worsen. These patients know their pattern will revert back to normal as weather conditions ease.

I doubt that, in the vast majority of cases, they would report to GP’s for treatment because of this.

So the study’s failure to spot potential links between weather and joints is perhaps not surprising.