Weather and Joint Pain

Many people with arthritis, including psoriatic arthritis, experience more joint pain when the weather changes. Some people claim they can predict the weather based on how their joints feel. While there is limited research to substantiate this effect, people who are living with arthritis learn what their personal triggers are and how to manage their condition.1

People living with psoriatic arthritis may experience more joint pain with the onset of cold weather, precipitation, or with low barometric pressure. One study from Tufts University found that every 10-degree drop in temperature related to an incremental increase in arthritis pain. An increase in pain was also seen with increasing barometric pressure. While researchers don’t know what exactly causes joints affected by arthritis to have more pain, one theory is that atmospheric conditions increase swelling in the joint capsule.1

Atmospheric pressure, also called barometric pressure, is the force exerted by the weight of the air. This pressure varies across the globe and shifts with weather patterns. When the pressure changes outside, the inflammation in the joints can shift in response.1

Caring for joints in bad weather

Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic condition that has periods of flares and remission. People living with psoriatic arthritis over time learn what triggers their symptoms and can incorporate strategies to manage their pain and swelling, indicating the understanding that comes with experience. Once the pre-flare state has been recognized as such, people living with psoriatic arthritis learn to adapt their activity level and lower their stress. Management of flares involves self-medication, self-help, resting, seeking medical attention, avoiding things or alternatively, just continuing on.2 There are also several strategies specific to weather-induced flares, including:

Planning ahead – People living with chronic conditions like psoriatic arthritis that are influenced by the weather can watch or listen to the weather report to have an idea of what to expect and provide themselves time to prepare.3

Adding layers – Especially for cold weather, adding layers of clothing to provide more warmth can improve joint flexibility.3

Keeping active – Rain or cold weather often keeps people from getting outside and may reduce their level of physical activity. However, exercise is critical for maintaining the function and use of joints in psoriatic arthritis. Exercise has been shown to reduce pain and improve well-being in people with psoriatic arthritis. Physical activity can also help maintain strength in the muscles, making daily tasks easier. Even on days with inclement weather and on days with increased pain, people living with psoriatic arthritis should move and stretch as much as they can every day to lessen stiffening and maintain flexibility.1,4,5

Using the warmth and comfort of water – Painful, swollen joints can often be relieved in a warm bath, which is relaxing and can be great for gentle stretching. The Arthritis Foundation recommends soaking for about 20 minutes. Adding sea salts or Epsom salt to the water can also ease muscle aches. Swimming or water aerobics in a heated pool can be both great exercise and soothing to joints that are inflamed from psoriatic arthritis.1

Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: October 2016.
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