As the weather shifts from winter to spring, it’s not uncommon to hear people both young and old complaining about aches and pains. As kids, many of us can also recall our grandparents predicting storms based on the feeling in their joints. But, does the weather actually affect joint pain? Yes, and no. While many scientists have conducted various studies and surveys that prove the weather does have some impact on joint pain, there is no for sure scientific method for proving such a connection. This is because every person experiences pain differently. Our jobs, exercise routines, eating habits, pain tolerance and places we live all have an effect on how much or how little pain we feel.
For interest's sake, let's say that changing weather does affect our bodies. How exactly? The most plausible argument is that changes in air pressure are to blame for joint pain— specifically, changes in barometric pressure.
What is Barometric Pressure?
Simply put, Barometric Pressure, also known as “Atmospheric Pressure” or “Air Pressure”, is the weight of the earth’s atmosphere. This pressure varies depending on where you are in the world and can also change depending on the amount of hot or cold air— hot air being lighter and less dense than cold air.
The effects of barometric pressure on our bodies
So what does this mean for our bodies? As mentioned above, the temperature affects how heavy or light air is and thus affects how much it “pushes” against our body. When the Barometric Pressure is high, the pressure pushes more against our body and limits how much tissue can expand. On the other hand, when the atmosphere’s air pressure is low, it allows our body’s tissues to expand more—putting more pressure on nerves and other parts of our body. While this change is extremely microscopic it’s sometimes enough for people to feel changes in their joints. People with existing joint pain are typically the ones to feel this change because their nerves are often more sensitive than normal.
Another theory explaining why our bodies feel differently depending on the weather has to do with the sun. Much like how warming up before participating in a sport or other physical activity makes us feel more limber and agile, the sun has the same effect on our bodies. The sun heats our bodies and soothes our muscles and joints. During the winter, we see less sun and tend to hunch over more which results in tighter muscles and joints, whereas in the summer, we see more sunshine, spend more time in warmer temperatures and don’t tend to hunch our bodies over as much. Sunshine has also been known to boost people’s mood which could make them less likely to notice joint pain.
Dealing with Joint Pain
Now that you know what might be causing your joint pain, how do you treat it? Before you pack up your belongings and move south to a place with year-round sunshine, warm temperatures and piña coladas, remember that this joint pain is temporary. Over the winter, our bodies become accustomed to the air pressure, temperature and our routines and so when the seasons change, our bodies need time to adjust to these new conditions. A sunny destination may serve as temporary relief, but eventually, our bodies will become accustomed to the new climate and begin to feel stiff and sore again as the weather changes. People living in warmer climates have also been known to be more sensitive to changes in climate, resulting in more frequent joint pain.
Sometimes, the joint pain you experience is not temporary. This may be caused by not giving your body enough time to ease into a new routine resulting in a strained muscle or could simply be existing joint pain that you simply thought was caused by the winter weather. In either situation, it’s important you reach out to a healthcare professional immediately to have your pain diagnosed and to begin recovering. Continuing to ignore this pain could lead to more severe symptoms down the road.
Licensed Physiotherapists, Chiropractors, Massage Therapists and Acupuncturists, like the specialists at both our Kitchener and Baden offices, are specially trained to differentiate joint pain that requires treatment from temporary joint pain and are able to develop treatment plans (if need be) for individual patient needs. For some patients, this may require only a few visits with one of our team members, while more severe conditions may require a more extensive treatment plan with more frequent appointments with multiple specialists. If you experience any lasting joint pain, muscle pain or soreness, don't hesitate to reach out to us by phone or by stopping into one of our clinics. Together, we'll decide what your next steps should be and help you recover as quickly as possible.