Does Weather Affect Joint Pain?

How the weather can affect joint pain, and what to do about it.

How do our bodies know when a storm could be looming? Many patients say they “feel it in their bones”, but is it just an old wives’ tale?

Can joint pain actually predict weather changes? Believe it or not, your weather forecasting might have some validity, thanks to the effects of barometric pressure changes on your body.

How Might Weather Cause Pain?

  • It’s typical for joint pain to start even before the first raindrops fall
  • One leading theory points to changes in air pressure
  • Although many people say that their pain worsens with damp and rainy weather, the thing that affects people most is barometric pressure

What is Barometric Pressure?

  • It is the weight of the atmosphere that surrounds us
  • High barometric pressure pushes against the body from the outside and keeps tissues from expanding
  • Low barometric pressure pushes less against the body, allowing tissues to expand — and those expanded tissues can put pressure on the joint

Furthermore, when people have chronic pain, sometimes nerves can become more sensitized because of injury, inflammation, scarring, or adhesions.

What about altitude?

  • At higher altitudes, there’s less barometric pressure and our bodies react similarly
  • When there’s less pressure, we expand and even though plane cabins are pressurized, our feet often swell during a flight

Treatment Options and Comfort Measures

  1. Stay warm. Dressing in layers, keeping your home heated, and warming up the car before you get in can help ease pain related to cold weather. Heat lets muscles relax, so it’s a soothing way of helping with pain.
  2. Try to prevent swelling. Warmth helps with joint pain, but not necessarily swelling. Try wearing Spandex gloves at night to try to keep fluid out of the joints or compression stockings to help with foot and knee pain.
  3. Keep moving. . Before you go outside during cold weather, try to exercise your painful joints to loosen up stiffness.
  4. Improve your mood. People in chronic pain often feel anxious, depressed, and irritable. Learn how to pace yourself, and figure out how to improve your sleep.
  5. Realize that the pain is temporary. When weather-related pain strikes, remember it isn’t a permanent change. It’s short-lived.


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