WSJ: Granny was right: Scientists link achy joints and weather
HA! we all know this is true, it’s about time scientists figured it out!
Still, other studies have linked changes in temperature, humidity or barometric pressure to worsening pain from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as headaches, tooth aches, jaw pain, scar pain, low-back pain, pelvic pain, fibromyalgia, trigeminal neuralgia (a searing pain in the face), gout and phantom-limb pain.
Bill Balderaz had a rheumatoid-arthritis flare-up last year—just before a surprise storm hit Ohio. Jason Joseph
Scientists don’t understand all the mechanisms involved in weather-related pain, but one leading theory holds that the falling barometric pressure that frequently precedes a storm alters the pressure inside joints. Those connections between bones, held together with tendons and ligaments, are surrounded and cushioned by sacs of fluid and trapped gasses.
“Think of a balloon that has as much air pressure on the outside pushing in as on the inside pushing out,” says Robert Jamison, a professor of anesthesia and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. As the outside pressure drops, the balloon—or joint—expands, pressing against surrounding nerves and other tissues. “That’s probably the effect that people are feeling, particularly if those nerves are irritated in the first place,” Dr. Jamison says.
Not everyone with arthritis has weather-related pain, says Patience White, a rheumatologist at George Washington University School of Medicine and a vice president of the Arthritis Foundation. “It’s much more common in people with some sort of effusion,” an abnormal buildup of fluid in or around a joint that frequently occurs with inflammation.
Many patients swear that certain weather conditions exacerbate their pain. Consequently, orthopedists, rheumatologists, neurologists, family physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists—even personal trainers—report an increase in grousing among their clients when the temperature drops or a storm approaches.
“I can tell you emphatically there are certain days where practically every patient complains of increased pain,” says Aviva Wolff, an occupational therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, and Mrs. Polatsek’s daughter. “The more dramatic the weather change, the more obvious it is.”