Not everyone feels the weather coming in their bones but for those that do, it’s often a painful feeling. Some people feel a change in weather in their knees, others in their hips or wherever they have arthritis; then there’s migraines, too.
People have been talking about this since Hippocrates’s day when he phrased the phenomenon as “feeling under the weather,” although the phrase is used slightly differently now. Scientists are still trying to explain why this happens and recent studies show convincing theories. Turns out Grandma was right all along!
Why We Get Body Pain in Bad Weather
To be fair, there are several theories for the phenomenon and there hasn’t been a conclusive decision on which one is most valid. Most studies have been small and show mixed results. Even so, the most common theory is that of barometric pressure changes.
How Could Barometric Pressure Affect Joint Pain?
Let’s back up a bit. Barometric pressure is also known at atmospheric pressure. It’s the weight of the air around us and it’s constantly changing.
You may recall that barometric pressure is used to forecast the onset of storms and changing weather systems. According to research, this change in air pressure can cause swelling in some areas of our bodies which then causes pain.
Changes in barometric pressure may make your tendons, muscles, and any scar tissue expand and contract, and that can create pain in joints affected by arthritis. Low temperatures can also make the fluid inside joints thicker, so they feel stiffer.WebMD
To recap, changes in barometric pressure happen when weather systems change and this change in pressure may also cause painful swelling in our bodies. This may indicate that you can actually feel a storm coming before it hits.
Where It Gets Interesting
A study from the 60’s indicated this as well when it placed people with rheumatoid arthritis in a controlled environment and altered the atmosphere. When humidity increased and pressure decreased, the researcher noticed an increase in stiffness and swelling.
A recent study published in October 2019 had participants track their pain in smartphones, where the researchers tracked other necessary data. They found correlations with low barometric pressure and pain, but also with high humidity and even high wind speed. Here, the most significant contributor was humidity.
An interesting point surfaced in related articles, as well. People reported pain related to weather changes even in warm climates, meaning very small changes can affect the body. One source even provided tips on ways you can manage this type of pain, including warm baths, warm clothes, paraffin baths, medication, exercise, and proper sleep.
Overall, we need more research to say for sure how weather affects body pain. Though we can safely say we’re onto something!