We can all tell that autumn is here.  Fall festivals abound, football is in full swing, Halloween decorations are out, the stores are already filling displays with Christmas decorations, and people are complaining that their joints ache.  What do achy joints and autumn have in common?  It depends on who you ask.  There has been for eons a theory that changes in the weather cause joints to ache more than usual.  One client of mine said to me this morning as it was raining, “Y’all might as well forget about a lunch break today.  The weather is changing, and the parking lot is filling up!”  Is there any truth to the weather change/joint pain connection?

In 400 B.C., Hippocrates made the first known correlation with changes in the weather and an increase in joint pain.  A theory that has stood the test of time is hard to dispute, but some researchers have tried.  Dr. Amos Tversky, a Stanford University psychologist, says that people’s enduring belief that their arthritis pain is intensified by changes in the weather is a myth.  He claims that human nature in all of us wants to find and follow patterns whether they actually exist or not.  He says that it is his job to de-bug human intuition, and he has found that we humans are good at pattern generation and are very good at forming hypotheses.  We just aren’t, in his summation, very good at testing our hypotheses. 

Other people, however, are more convinced that joint pain is indeed affected by the changes in the weather.  Dr. Frank Arnett, a rheumatologist (a doctor who specializes in the study and treatment of joints and joint disorders) from the University of Texas at Houston, says that the correlation definitely exists.  He says that the notion of weather changes and joint pain going hand-in-hand is real and that it goes even further than just arthritis.  He says that in his experience people with fractures that have healed can tell when the weather is going to change.  It is hard to argue with the many people who report that they can actually predict the changes in the weather, and Dr. Arnett refuses to.

From a standpoint of weather, the reason that many people feel more pain during periods of weather change can be explained by the fact that weather changes are associated with changes in barometric pressure.  Barometric pressure is the pressure that air exerts on all objects. It is called barometric pressure because the instrument which is used to measure the pressure is called a barometer. Most often meteorologists are talking about air pressure on the ground when discussing barometric pressure. If an area of low pressure exists, clouds and precipitation can be expected.  Dry places like Arizona have states of predominately high pressure which brings to them warm climates with low humidity and very little rainy wet weather.  This is why many people who suffer from severe arthritic conditions might even move to drier warm climates to avoid the ebb and flow of barometric pressure changes. 

Pressure makes fluid levels rise and fall.  Most of our joints are surrounded by fluid-filled capsules, so when pressure rises or falls it causes the pressure in our joints to rise and fall as well.  Those who suffer from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis feel the pain of pressure changes in a heightened sense because their joints are already inflamed and the pressure change just irritates them further.  Motion tends to lubricate joints, so it is helpful for sufferers to get moving as difficult as that might seem.  This is an area in which your chiropractor can be of tremendous service.  Chiropractors manipulate stuck, achy joints and the motion helps relieve the pressure inside the joint capsules.  If the pressure inside the joints is relieved so is the intense sensation of pain in most cases. 

Is there a definite connection between joint pain and weather changes?  I would have to say that I have been amazed at the accuracy with which some of my own clients can predict the weather.  You, however, can judge for yourself.  Treat your body well.