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The weather is changing, can you really feel it in your bones?

Ok it isn’t snowing yet, but many of my patients are telling me that as the weather changes the pain in their joints is flaring up. Is this an old wives tale?

Scientists have been trying to understand how the weather can affect arthritic pain for thousands of years, Hippocrates in 400BC wrote about the effect of wind and rain on chronic disease. Whilst there is no scientific agreement as to how the weather changes pain levels, there are several theories which support patient’s experiences.

Joint pain & barometric pressure

The body’s natural response to damage is inflammation, which involves an increase in the blood volume to a damaged area (as part of the natural repair process). Barometric pressure is the change in air pressure, as it drops gases & fluids expand. Some scientists believe that the fluids in a joint expand in low pressure increasing the pressure on nerves and damaged joints making them more sensitive to pain. An increase in air pressure will reduce the expansion of the gases and fluids relieving the tissues under pressure and reducing the pain. Some people will experience a similar reaction when they are flying as cabin pressure is reduced and their legs may swell (this can also be due to lack of movement).

Activity levels change as the weather does.

When the seasons change so do our activities, we are more inclined to go outside and get active when the weather is sunny, playing games, going for walks or gardening. Rain or cold spells encourage many of us to stay indoors, and as a result to choose more sedentary activities. Less movement can result in an increase in stiffness and make us more aware generally of aches and pains.

Learned association

Maybe because we tend to be less active as the weather becomes less inviting, we expect to feel our joints hurting more, or we maybe we have heard our relatives comment on how their aches and pains have get worse with weather changes, we anticipate joint pain, and when it occurs we naturally associate it with the weather, even if it is caused by something else.

Tips to reduce the impact of weather on your pain.

  1. Be prepared
    Dress appropriately for the weather, you will feel more inclined to get out and move if you have the right clothing.
  2. Get moving
    The more active you are, the less stiffness you will feel, your mood will be better, and therefore you will notice your aches and pains less.
  3. Drink plenty of fluids
    If you are dehydrated you may be more sensitive to pain.
  4. Eat a well balanced diet
    Vitamin D deficiency is common in those with arthritis, and is hard to come by in the UK in winter. Arthritis UK have some helpful hints and tips on food to avoid, and food that can help arthritic pain.
  5. Be sociable
    Pain can be very depressing and isolating, if you can meet friends or family it will help to distract you from the aches and pains you are experiencing.
  6. Book an appointment to see your osteopath
    A massage can help to reduce stiffness and reduce inflammation. #osteopathyworks