How Does the Weather Affect Joint Pain?
Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: August 2022
Many people with arthritis, including psoriatic arthritis (PsA), experience more joint pain when the weather changes. Some people even claim they can predict the weather based on how their joints feel.1
There is limited research to fully prove this effect. But there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to show that changes in the weather affect some people's joints.1,2
Atmospheric pressure and damp cold
People living with PsA may experience more joint pain with the onset of rainy days and cooler temperatures. Experts do not know exactly what causes joints affected by arthritis to have more pain during weather changes.1,2
When a storm or bad weather is coming, barometric pressure decreases. Barometric pressure is the force exerted by the weight of the air around us. This pressure varies across the globe and shifts with weather patterns. One theory is that low barometric pressure increases swelling in the joint capsule, which can lead to pain.1,2
Temperature can have an effect as well. Colder temperatures may make joints, muscles, and ligaments stiff. And stiffness leads to more pain.1,2
A 2018 survey found that many people with psoriasis and PsA ranked winter as the worst season for joint pain and flare-ups. Some evidence suggests that the reduced amount of ultraviolet light from the sun during the colder months may trigger symptoms. This could be why light therapy is often helpful for people with psoriasis and PsA. But more research is needed.1,2
However, not everyone experiences worse joint pain during the winter. People who live in warmer, drier climates report joint pain and triggers just as often as those who live in colder climates. And some people with PsA notice no symptom changes due to the weather. It is clear, then, that joint pain and triggers are unique to each person.2
Caring for joints in bad weather
While you cannot change the weather, you can use it to fine-tune your self-care and treatment strategies. That might involve taking medicine, resting, avoiding other known triggers, and getting regular exercise.1,2
Here are some tips that can help with weather-induced flares:1,2
- Take your medicine. When the weather turns, it is more important than ever to continue with your treatment. Keep anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medicines nearby to help with symptoms.
- Plan ahead. If weather changes trigger your PsA symptoms, watch or listen to the weather report to get an idea of what to expect. This allows you time to prepare.
- Add layers. If it is cold and damp outside, add layers of clothing to keep you warm. This can help keep your joints insulated and help prevent them from becoming stiff.
- Keep active. Rain or cold weather can make it hard to want to be outside. But exercise is critical for maintaining the function and use of your joints if you have PsA. It also keeps your muscles strong, reduces pain, and improves well-being. So, even on days with bad weather, move as much as you can to lessen stiffening and maintain flexibility. Try low-impact activities like walking and swimming.
- Take a warm bath. Painful, swollen joints often can be relieved in a warm bath. Baths not only are relaxing but can help reduce pain. Adding sea salts or Epsom salt to the water can also ease muscle aches. Swimming or water aerobics in a heated pool can be great exercise and soothe inflamed joints.
- Stretch it out. Stretching is important for people with PsA. Try some gentle stretches after a warm bath, when your joints are looser. You also can stretch while you enjoy your morning cup of coffee or tea. Doing some gentle yoga can help you maintain flexibility.
Learn what triggers your joint pain
Bad weather can cause flares in some people with PsA. But it is possible to manage and care for your joints when the weather changes. If you need support, reach out to your doctor. They can share some ways to cope with PsA symptoms, even during a bad weather day.1,2