“A storm is coming…I feel it in my joints.” For many of the estimated 52.5 million arthritis sufferers in the United States (accordingly to the CDC), these words are familiar. Yet, can arthritic joints really predict the weather? Once written off as an old wives’ tale, this kind of prediction is actually closer to the truth than most realize, according to Dr. Sarah Miller and Dr. Joseph Horrigan, local experts in physical medicine and soft tissue, respectively, for DISC Sports & Spine Center in Marina del Rey.
“The key to this issue is barometric pressure, which drops immediately before storms appear,” Dr. Miller explains. “Recent research has found that the changes in barometric pressure actually do exacerbate inflammation in arthritic joints.”
Adds Dr. Horrigan: “When a high- or low-pressure system comes in, people may report aches and pains even when it’s not terribly cold. What they’re experiencing is the impact of changing barometric pressure on fluids in the body… namely joint fluid.”
The doctors go on to explain that, as the barometric pressure drops, fluid inside of arthritic joints can gently expand, putting extra pressure and tension that leads to increased pain. Hence, physiological changes in one’s body can sometimes predict upcoming weather changes.
“And once your body—or your local forecaster—has alerted you that weather changes are on the way, it’s now your turn to prepare accordingly to help navigate finicky weather with less pain,” says Dr. Miller.
Here are five quick tips for arthritis sufferers dealing with flip-flop weather patterns so common in the early spring:
- Dress the Part – Dress in layers that allow you to adapt easily to climate change. Cold tends to make tissue less pliable, so joints will feel stiffer when you’re not warm enough, and hot weather can make tissue more pliable and looser.
- Stretch and Warm Up – By taking a few minutes to stretch and warm up before heading out in any weather, you’ll help keep tissues pliable and reduce the symptoms of barometric pressures on your joints.
- Stay Hydrated – Whether it’s hot or cold, your body needs adequate fluids to perform at its best. Dehydration may be more obvious in hot weather, but can be just as big of a threat when it’s cold. Keep a source of water with you.
- Get Plenty of Rest – While it may sound cliché, rest is essential to keeping your joints working properly, especially during periods of arthritis flare-ups brought on by barometric pressure changes and other sources. Try your best to get at least 7-8 hours each night.
- Eat to Live – Eat to live, not live to eat, and reduce your intake of inflammatory “triggers” such as fried and processed foods, sugars and refined carbohydrates, salt and preservatives and saturated fats.