Arthritis and Weather
Can arthritis pain predict the weather? Are weather and health problems related? The medical evidence is unclear.
A Psychological Explanation continued...
Using this same logic, one instance of an arthritis flare-up
coincidentally taking place before a storm might be all it takes for someone to
become convinced that there is a direct connection between his or her symptoms
and the weather.
"We want to find a reason for our pain, but sometimes we
can't," says Weisberg. "And so the weather is one of the easiest things
to blame." All you have to do is look up to find your suspect.
Driscoll agrees. "If you convince yourself that there is a
relationship between the weather and your pain, then by golly, there is
one," he tells WebMD. "As the barometer lowers, and the clouds
approach, and the wind picks up, if you think that your arthritis ought to be
acting up, it will."
Although Weisberg is generally a skeptic, he finds the desire
to believe in the connection very strong even in himself. "I try to tell my
patients that there really isn't evidence that weather has a big effect even if
they think it does," he says. "But it's hard, because in the back of
mind, there's still this strong feeling that there really is something to
The Silver Lining
Despite the failures by researchers to find a strong connection
between weather and health, Driscoll notes that hope springs eternal. "And
that's sort of ironic, because we certainly don't want the weather to be that
effective in ordaining our illnesses," he says.
Despite the disagreements, almost everyone concurs that the
effects of weather on chronic pain conditions is mild at worst and nonexistent
at best. Either way, it doesn't matter that much.
Because of this, even if you have severe pain associated with
the weather, experts recommend that you should be very careful before deciding
to follow the folk wisdom and move to a climate that is drier and warmer.
"I have patients who go down south for the winter and they feel great for
the first few months," says Weisberg. "But then their body acclimates
to that weather pattern and they start feeling just like they did
Besides, the possibility of environmental benefits to changing
climates might be outweighed by the psychological stress -- and the physical
pain that might develop as a result of that stress -- of reestablishing
yourself in a new place, according to Wilder.
Weisberg and Driscoll offer some practical advice. "Since
there's not much people can do about the weather. They should just work on the
things that they can change," says Weisberg.
Driscoll agrees. "If weather has any influence at all on
pain conditions, it's a very small one," he says. "And since we can't
do anything about it anyway, why worry about it?"