Does the Weather Affect Arthritis?

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By, Surabhi Ashok

Does weather really affect arthritis or is it just a claim that people make?

Before we can answer that, we have to understand what arthritis actually is. Arthritis describes the condition when people, mostly elderly, experience pain and stiffness due to the inflammation of their joints. It mainly affects the joints in their hips, hands, knees, and spine. Although there are many types of arthritis, the most common are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

While there are many anecdotal and personal claims that things like rain cause someone’s arthritis to flare up, studies conducted by researchers in order to identify this possible connection have mostly yielded weak and contradictory results. After all, it is hard to pinpoint which specific element of the weather is linked to joint pain– is it the humidity levels, temperature, precipitation, or the fluctuations in barometric pressure?

However, a few more recent studies all point to the direction that weather does affect arthritis. Although each set of results varied slightly and the cause is still unclear, the possible relationship between the two factors has become more solidified. In one study, Dutch researchers compared 222 people with osteoarthritis over a two-year period. They found that joint stiffness got slightly worse as pressure and humidity rose. In another study, it was found, through observing 800 adults in Europe who had osteoarthritis that affected the hip, knee, or hands, that pain and stiffness grew as humidity rose, especially in the colder months of the year. The last research examination enlisted the help of 2600 citizens with arthritis that tracked their daily symptoms. By the end of the year, researchers compared the reports with local weather patterns and discovered that joint pain had a small relationship with high wind speed, low barometric pressure, and high humidity.

No doctor is going to say that moving to a hotter climate will cure you of your arthritis but knowing the impact weather has on this malady can potentially help patients learn better treatments and preventive strategies.