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How can the weather contribute to osteoarthritis pain?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Weather cannot cause osteoarthritis (OA), but some studies have found that the pain and stiffness of OA gets worse when the weather changes. One study found women experience more pain when the barometric pressure is higher. Another study found that people with osteoarthritis experienced more pain during cold or humid weather.

Medication, regular physical therapy and other treatments may reduce the pain caused by OA.

Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Practitioner

A 2004 study on the effects of weather on people with rheumatoid arthritis concluded that joint pain actually does increase with a decrease in barometric pressure. The researchers also said that low temperatures can increase the risk of pain in joints as well. Even though is little other scientific evidence that points to weather as a cause of joint pain, it is difficult to disregard the many people who say it does.

Some people say they experience pain, stiffness or even inflammation when the barometric pressure changes, such as from an impending storm, cabin pressure on an airplane, or driving or hiking to a higher elevation. Some people may also feel more pain when the weather is humid, rainy, cold or warm.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

As a physician, I used to laugh when people told me they could predict the weather based on how their arthritic joints felt. Osteoarthritis (OA) pain comes and goes, I would tell them and if you notice any extra twinges as the weather changes, it's just coincidence. After all, the weather changes all the time too.

Turns out, I was wrong. Researchers have found that falling barometric pressure, falling temperatures and precipitation can all trigger pain in an arthritic joint. We still don't know exactly why this is, but it might be because the changing weather triggers swelling in the joint.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.