It’s not a myth: active weather patterns, and low-pressure systems in particular, have a noticeable effect on our bodies, including joint pain, headaches, and even the occasional induced labor. Joint pain is the most widely known effect weather has on your body. … The warmer, calmer weather helps soothe aches and pains
How Do We Know Barometric Pressure Is Linked to Pain?
In a study published in the American Pain Society’s online Journal of Pain, Professor Robert Newlin Jamison of the Harvard Medical School interviewed people in four cities with distinctly different weather patterns. He found that two thirds of his subjects reported that their pain intensified about a day or two before the city experienced a storm.
How Does Barometric Pressure Affect Pain?
The short answer is that we don’t know yet. But there is a plausible hypothesis.
Barometric pressure can be conceptualized as the degree to which the air weighs down on us. Changes in the weather decrease or increase that weight.
The tissues that surround our joints aren’t rigid. To a degree, they expand or contract based on the pressure that’s exerted on them. The drop in atmospheric pressure that comes before bad weather allows them to expand, with the result that they themselves exert increased pressure on the joints inside them. With that pressure comes pain.
Of course, the expansion is nominal and we don’t see people swelling up before our eyes, prior to bad weather. But if you already have a condition that leaves you susceptible to joint pain like chronic arthritis or some other degenerative joint condition, even that tiny difference can make pain flare.
In What Conditions Is Barometric Pressure Linked to Pain?
We commonly think of arthritis pain as affected by the weather, but it’s not the only ailment that leaves a sufferer susceptible. You can also experience the effect if you have multiple sclerosis, an injury, complex regional pain syndrome, chronic inflammation, scarring, or adhesions (scar tissue on the inner lining of the abdomen or between internal organs.)
Barometric Pressure, Pain, and Altitude
The higher above sea level we travel, the more atmospheric pressure diminishes. This is even true aboard an airplane, where, although the cabin is pressurized, pressure is still less than if the traveler were still on the ground. For this reason, passengers sometimes experience swelling of the feet and ankles, and if they’re susceptible to pain in those parts of the body, the swelling may trigger it.
Will Living in the Right Area Break the Link Between Barometric Pressure and Pain?
It sounds like it should, doesn’t it? You should be able to move to a warm, dry climate and leave pain behind.
Unfortunately, though, Professor Jamison’s research doesn’t bear that out. Apparently, wherever you move to, your body adjusts to that climate as the new normal, leaving you as vulnerable to pain based on shifts in the weather as before.