The changeable weather of fall is upon us here in the Pacific northwest and with it more joint discomfort. Over my 30+ years of practice I have often heard clients make reference to a weather change affecting their joints which begs the question, can weather conditions actually aggravate physical pain? Certainly our ancestors thought so with complaints of “the rheumatism” going back hundreds of years and changes of climate (as opposed to climate change) being recommended as a suitable management strategy.
Something about barometric pressure change seems to reliably register as discomfort for many people with sensitive or chronically swollen joints. The likely mechanism is that as the outside weather pressure drops it pushes in on the joints less. Now there is relatively more inside joint pressure pushing out and so the already irritated joint balloons out a little and further annoys nerves and soft tissues. Rising humidity might also be a factor in that joint areas have many tissues of different densities. If they were to expand or contract at different rates during changeable conditions then pain could be produced.
It is certainly inconsistent from person to person which is probably why a solid answer has been difficult to pin down through studies but people who are susceptible are adamant that the effect is there and can even prove to be a handy weather predictor of sorts!
So, given that winter is on the way and will carry more of this discomfort along with it perhaps a geographical cure is in order. South of France anyone…?