Chilled to the bone. Many of us have used this expression after spending some time outdoors in the cold weather. But it leads to perhaps one of the most common questions posed to all rheumatologists: Does the weather have any impact on our bones or joints? Many people are convinced that they are able to predict the weather based on increase in joint or back pain. A commonly quoted study conducted more than 10 years ago seemed to support this notion by showing that every 10-degree drop in temperature as well as a drop in barometric pressure can increase joint pain.
The Arthritis Foundation even provides an arthritis index on their website which is based on local temperature and barometric pressure that anyone can use if they chose. So mystery solved, right? Not so fast. Like so many things in medicine, our knowledge is always evolving. One of the more recent and largest studies to date found absolutely no connection between changes in weather and joint pain. This conclusion was based on very comprehensive data collected from over TEN million doctor visits. And then there was another recent Dutch study that showed an increase in barometric pressure and humidity correlated well to increased joint pain, which directly contradicted the previous notion that the drop in barometric pressures was the culprit for your achy bones.
Digesting all of these conflicting findings can be a challenge for clinicians and patients alike. The reality is that the verdict is likely still out on this complex issue and there is more data to come. Until we get some more clarity, my recommendation is to go with whatever your body tells you. After all, no science can compete with personal experience that tells you that the ache you feel in your knees probably means that you should get your umbrella ready.
Dr. Max Shenin is a board-certified and fellowship trained rheumatologist with NHRMC Physician Group – Rheumatology. To make an appointment, call 910.662.7550.
About NHRMC Physician Group - Rheumatology
A rheumatologist helps manage all types of arthritis and other rheumatic conditions through specialized treatments and exercise remedies. There are many kinds of arthritis and the goal is to restore movement while helping patients maintain as active a lifestyle as possible. Rheumatologists can help prevent joint pain from progressing and offer medications and exercise to help relieve symptoms.