Ever hear Grandma or Grandpa mention feeling a weather change in their bones? Well, there might well be some truth to that.
A huge part of weather is barometric pressure, which is the amount of gravitational force pulling atmospheric gases towards Earth. Lower pressure is associated with clouds, rain, or thunderstorm, while higher pressures make for cloudless, sunny days.
Weather affects the body in all kinds of ways. Air pressure can trigger headaches and joint pain. Changes in barometric pressure and humidity affect the brain’s ability to block pain. Cold causes your muscles, ligaments, and tendons to tense up.
Despite improvements in weather forecasting technology, it is still difficult to figure out exactly what the elements will bring from day to day. Yet we may have our very own forecasting system built right in. Ankle or knee pain? Maybe a storm is approaching.
However, not everyone is onboard with “feeling” changes in the weather. Some doctors dismiss it as a post-hoc recollection used to explain symptoms after the fact. You might notice your aching back on a rainy day, but forget that your back also hurt on a sunny day. In which case, you might do better to focus on treatment and prevention instead of blaming the weather.
But even if barometric pressure isn’t the culprit, there may still be a link between weather and pain. We’re typically less active when it’s cold outside, and exercise can alleviate many conditions, including arthritis.
Lower temps may thicken joint fluids, resulting in stiffness and soreness. It’s also possible that less sunlight at this time of year causes a decrease in vitamin D, which can increase pain.
The link between pain and weather could also be explained by an increase in injuries. Arthritic or not, a patch of ice can catch you off-guard.
And, finally, there is something to be said for the power of suggestion. If you feel happier when the sun is shining, you might feel physically better as well.
To reduce pain during the winter, dress for the season. You can always shed layers if you get too hot, but you don’t want to be caught out in the elements. Remember: There’s no such thing as cold weather—just poor clothing choices!
Even if you don’t have a gym membership or expensive equipment at home, there are a number of ways to stay active when it’s not fit for man nor beast outside. Swimming is a high-aerobic/low-impact workout year-round. Just avoid going outside immediately afterwards, as the dramatic change in temperature can cause a spike in your blood pressure.
Whether your body can predict the weather is still up for debate, but it can definitely tell when you need to warm up—pay attention and try not to linger in especially cold weather. If there is any truth to the weather’s effect on pain, you can take comfort in the fact that temperatures look to be above average this holiday season, with slightly drier conditions as well. After a snowy November and a white Christmas, we may see a slight drought in January and February.