Have You Noticed the Connection Between Barometric Pressure and Pain?
When you were a kid, did you ever hear the old timers talk about “arthritis weather?” You probably didn’t give it much thought until you got older yourself. But now? Well, now you’re beginning to notice the connection between barometric pressure and pain. But many people don’t understand how and why weather affects joint pain like that of the wrists and hands, the hips, or the knees.
It can be especially perplexing when the skies are sunny and blue, but still your arthritis flares up. Surely that exposes the lie in that old wives’ tale about weather affecting joint pain. Guess again.
There’s a lot of truth to those old tales, and it has to do with how barometric pressure and pain are connected.
The National Stem Cell Institute (NSI), one of the United States’ leading regenerative medicine clinics, understands exactly how and why this happens. Curious? Read on!
The Connection Between Barometric Pressure and Pain
It may seem more like folklore than science, but there is definitely a connection between barometric pressure and pain. That’s why someone’s arthritic ankle can seem almost prophetic in predicting a change in weather.
The physicians at NSI see their patients practically blush when they admit they believe in arthritis weather. That’s because friends and family so often scoff when the topic comes up. It may seem like a small thing but when these patients are ridiculed for making the connection between weather, barometric pressure and pain, it often leads to silent suffering.
The connection between barometric pressure and pain is very real.
Robert Newlin Jamison, PhD, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School , knows it’s real. The American Pain Society’s online Journal of Pain, published Dr. Jamison’s research in which he examined the connection between weather, barometric pressure, and pain.
His study looked for this relationship in four distinctly different regional cities: San Diego, Nashville, Boston, and Worcester (though Boston and Worcester are both in Massachusetts, Worcester has distinctly colder temperatures than Boston).
His findings were intriguing. Two-thirds of the people interviewed for the study reported that they were relatively sure that arthritis weather was a real phenomenon. This is because their pain regularly flared about a day before a storm moved through the area.
Rheumatologist David Borenstein, clinical professor of medicine at George Washington University Medical Center concurs.
He says that it is not at all unusual for joint pain to kick up even before the first raindrops. “If you really listened carefully to Grandma or someone who had arthritis, they actually told you it was going to rain. They said, ‘It’s going to rain today,’ and more likely than not, they were usually correct.”
How can this be explained? A sufficient body of studies on barometric pressure and pain has not yet been built up, so scientists haven’t come to a full agreement at this point. But Dr. Jamison says that there are plausible theories.
Theories on the Connection Between Weather and Joint Pain
One primary theory has to do with barometric pressure and pain. Barometric pressure is the weight of the atmosphere surrounding us. This pressure changes as weather shifts. Many people think it’s the damp, rain, cold temperatures, or snow that causes their joint pain.
Dr. Borenstein and Dr. Jamison believe it is actually the shifts in atmospheric pressure as the weather changes that cause arthritis weather.
Think of the tissues that surround your joints as balloons. When high barometric pressure pushes against the body from the outside, the tissues are prevented from expanding. But when atmospheric pressure drops just prior to bad weather setting in, the pressure pushing against our bodies lessens. This allows those tissues to begin expanding. As they expand, they exert a force on the joints. Hence, the connection between barometric pressure and pain.
The changes are microscopic but significant.
Dr. Jamison explains that the shifts in tissue pressure are very microscopic. When our joints are healthy, we don’t even notice. But for those with chronic arthritis or other degenerative joint problems, the microscopic changes can cause a significant sensation. The connection between barometric pressure and pain is keenly felt by them.
While this atmospheric-related pressure is commonly called arthritis weather, it isn’t just people with arthritic joints who are affected by barometric pressure and pain. Other conditions that can be affected include:
Nerve issues related to conditions like multiple sclerosis, complex regional pain syndrome, or an injury
- Chronic inflammation
- Adhesions (the formation of scar tissue between internal organs or in the inner lining of the abdomen)
Regardless of the studies being conducted, the connection between barometric pressure and pain remains hypothetical. Dr. Jamison and Dr. Borenstein agree that there is presently no consensus since not everyone with joint pain experiences flare-ups just before a change in weather. But they both believe it’s a very likely explanation since it has long been established that changes in atmospheric pressure affect the human body.
“It’s not metaphysical, it’s actually physical. It’s the same kind of thing that you have with people who go up in a plane or [astronauts],” Dr. Jamison says. “They are creatures of the atmosphere.”
In the lower pressure of higher altitudes, the connection between barometric pressure and pain is even easier to make.
Take, for example, what happens when we’re on a flight. Though the plane is pressurized, the barometric pressure of the upper atmosphere is still less than that on the ground. Passengers often experience swelling of the feet and ankles even though no such thing happens when we’re sitting at our desks for a similar amount of time at sea level.
Does This Mean Moving to a Dry Southern or Western State Will Fix the Problem?
The doctors at NSI often get asked by their patients if moving away from colder climes is the answer. While there’s no reason not to move if that’s your preference, it’s important to understand that doing so won’t be a miracle cure for chronic pain. Just because you may not feel the connection between barometric pressure and pain as keenly when you move to Florida or New Mexico, that doesn’t mean you’ll see a dramatic difference.
Says Dr. Jamison, “If you have awful back or neck pain… there’s a good chance that that pain will travel with you.”
Actually, his study found that the people who lived in San Diego reported the greatest sensitivity to weather changes in comparison to subjects living in Nashville, Boston, and Worcester. In fact, the subjects in San Diego noticed an uptick in pain even with small weather shifts. Dr. Jamison postulates that our bodies simply adjust to the new climate, and become as sensitive to the connection between barometric pressure and pain as they were in colder, wetter states.
There is no single area in the U.S. where the pain is demonstrably less than in other regions.
It’s a bit of a myth, then, that moving to Arizona or any other state where the weather is warmer or drier will result in less pain. Dr. Borenstein points out that the myth is likely rooted in vacations spent relaxing and away from daily physical duties that aggravate one’s chronic pain.
7 Ways to Relieve “Arthritis Weather” Pain
The connection between barometric pressure and pain can be lessened in several ways. They include:
- A temporary increase in pain medications. Check with your doctor before doing so.
- Keep your body warm. Dress in layers, keep your home well heated and warm the car up before you drive around in cold weather. Consider using an electric blanket at bed time. You can even find relief by warming clothes in your dryer before putting them on.
- Apply a heating pad to your painful joints. Heat is a natural muscle relaxer that soothes and helps relieve pain.
- Prevent swelling. While applying heat can initially ease joint pain, if the swelling isn’t reduced the pain will return once the warmth is removed. So wear compression gloves, cuffs, and sleeves that hug the sore joints.
- Exercise the affected joints. Before leaving the house or office, you go outside during cold weather, try loosening up your stiff, painful joints with some stretching exercises.
- Find ways to improve your mood. Whether you’ve noticed a connection between barometric pressure and pain or not, it’s understandable that your chronic pain can cause feelings of anxiety, depression, and irritability. Finding ways to help relieve your mood can often result in a lessening of pain.
These ways can include learning to pace yourself when you have an arthritis weather flare up, giving yourself permission to rest more, and finding ways to help improve the quality of your sleep. Good old fashioned distraction often works wonders, too, for keeping one’s mind off the dropping barometric pressure and pain and improving mood. So find activities, whether mental or physical, that helps you focus on something other than your pain.
- Keep in mind that “arthritis weather” pain is temporary. The flare up is short-lived, and both the barometric pressure and pain will fade as the weather improves. In fact, your body will begin adjusting to the atmospheric changes, moving the build-up of fluids away from the joints and into the circulatory system. As this happens, you’ll begin felling less sore and stiff. Many of the tips above will help speed this process.
The National Stem Cell Institute (NSI) is a leading regenerative medicine cell clinic based in the United States. NSI specializes in stem cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma therapy. From degenerative diseases like arthritis to injuries of the spine and joints, NSI has helped patients recover from disease, reduce pain, heal from injury, and improve quality of life.
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What to Look for in a Stem Cell Medical Clinic
When searching for a qualified stem cell therapy center it’s important to remember that not all of them are created equal. Stem cells, when used properly, are your body’s most powerful means for healing that can repair everything from ligaments, tendons, and cartilage to organs including your liver, pancreas and lungs and even neurological tissue like your brain, nerves, and spinal cord.
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If you want to learn more about NSI Stem Cell Clinics, you can set up a complimentary consultation today to see if you are a candidate. You can contact the National Stem Cell Institute at (877) 278-3623.
* Disclaimer: Individual patient results may vary. As each patient’s problem is different, each treatment must be tailored around your specific needs.