How Does the Weather Affect Osteoarthritis Pain?


Same Day / Next Day Appointments Always Available​

Throughout the years, there have been numerous accounts from patients about their osteoarthritis pain and soreness getting worse as the weather turns cold and damp. Yet despite this age old phenomenon, doctors don’t have any real answer as to why this happens. There have been numerous studies, each with their own conclusions that have only further complicated the mystery behind the “link” between arthritis pain and changing weather. We looked into this modern medical debate, and here are our findings:


The evidence

Patients with osteoarthritis pain notice a stark increase in their pain right before a storm and find relief when it's sunny again. Moreover, summers are relatively less painful than winters, leading many people to believe that temperature is the key player in increasing or alleviating arthritic pain. However, both hot and cold compresses are known home remedies that provide short-term relief, making cold weather an unlikely factor in increased arthritic pain.


A more plausible explanation would be a combination of different weather effects, as was proposed in a 2015 study[1]. Patients experienced greater joint pain in lower temperatures in combination with high levels of humidity and/or precipitation. Further still, some experts offer that low barometric pressure before a storm can cause tissue, tendons and muscles around the affected joint to contract, thereby causing stiffness and soreness[2].


Does correlation mean causation?

Part of the argument against the weather having an influence on joint pain is that correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. Humans have a habit of seeing patterns where there tend to be none and establishing links and relationships based on those “patterns”. Like how getting 5 tails in a row when you flip a coin doesn’t guarantee that the next one will also be a tails, scientists propose that increasing soreness during cold and damp weather is a random occurrence. Why patients complain of greater pain when the winds change, however, may be a matter of perception rather than a physical occurrence.


People tend to be in better moods when it's sunny outside, making them less aware of their arthritic pain. On the other hand, when the sky starts to get dreary so does one’s mood. The more dramatic and miserable the weather, the more people become aware of their pain and it is in that moment of increased perception that joint pain seems like it has increased.


Towards a theory

However, in certain cases correlation and causation become inherently linked where evidence exists. When it comes to weather, it's a difficult task to either prove or disprove the effects of the weather on increased pain in the joints. Doctors, scientists and medical experts continue to look into this curious phenomenon and find evidence for or against the supposed link between weather and osteoarthritis - until then, it's a mystery in medical books.


At the US Knee Center we can provide you pain relief for even the stormiest of days. Our team of qualified doctors and physiotherapists work to provide patients with effective quality care with visible results. Contact us today for a pain-free tomorrow.


1. pubmed/26329341

2. articles/PMC3996041/