joint pain barometric pressure

We all know someone who brags that they can predict the weather based on their joint pain. Maybe you’ve experienced this phenomenon yourself: The day before a downpour, you notice increased stiffness, soreness, and aching in your joints.

Does weather really affect joint pain?

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Pain During Bad Weather: Joint Pain and Barometric Pressure

It’s a common question that patients ask their doctors: “Can weather make my joint pain worse?”

The answer isn’t entirely clear, but it seems that there may indeed be a connection between weather and pain in your joints.

“I think in certain cases when you have arthritis…there are some occasions when people can really feel something when the weather changes,” says Albert Lin, MD, chief of shoulder service and associate chief of sports medicine at UPMC. “I don’t know if it’s the temperature, the barometer, or the pressure, but sometimes people can feel a little bit of a difference. There are also people who get fractures, and they have surgery and the joint’s a little bit different after that. But does it happen in everyone? I would say no.” 

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Although it may seem like it’s the dampness that makes your joints ache, the culprit appears to be barometric pressure.

Also known as atmospheric pressure, this is a measure of the pressure, or weight, of the surrounding air. In a study published in the May 2007 issue of the American Journal of Medicine, researchers at Boston’s Tufts University examined the effects of changes in weather in 200 people with osteoarthritis of the knee.

They found that for every 10-degree drop in temperature, knee pain increased. Increases in barometric pressure also were associated with worsened pain.

More recently, Dutch researchers compared reported pain and function scores in 188 people with osteoarthritis of the hip to weather records.

They discovered that pain scores worsened by one point for each 10 percent rise in humidity. Function scores also worsened as barometric pressure increased. While other studies have shown conflicting results, it seems possible that weather can impact joint pain.

“Fortunately, joint pain is temporary. Keep yourself comfortable by staying warm. Stay active and be aware of your mood. Sleep well and stay hydrated. You might also need to adjust your medication regimen. Stay happy and active,” said Mamta Patel, MD, UPMC Family Medicine South. Talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

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Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.