Ever thought you could feel it in your bones when a storm was coming? Many people with chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, believe that stormy weather has an impact on their pain. However, there’s not been much evidence to support this until recently.
Researchers at the University of Manchester set out to find out the link between the weather and pain in a large study of over 2500 participants. Their study – Cloudy With a Chance of Pain – confirmed what we chronic pain sufferers have known for some time: that the weather does in fact have an effect on our pain.
The researchers also investigated which weather conditions were most likely to influence pain. They found that higher humidity, lower pressure, and stronger winds were the top three weather conditions associated with increased pain. Since these conditions also happen to be associated with stormy weather, it’s no wonder that your joints start acting up when a storm’s brewing.
Other research backs this up too. A 2014 study of people with osteoarthritis found that barometric pressure and humidity influenced pain symptoms, and another found that each 10 degree temperature drop was linked to an incremental increase in pain.
Why does stormy weather affect my pain?
There are several possible reasons. One is the effect of barometric pressure on the body. In good weather, when the pressure is high, the pressure pushes against the body, keeping the tissues surrounding your joints from expanding. In stormy weather, when the barometric pressure drops, the tissues around your joints are able to expand, putting pressure on the joints and increasing pain. In addition, low temperatures can cause the fluid inside joints to get thicker, making them more stiff and painful.
Stormy weather can also lead to a lower mood, and the Cloudy With a Chance of Pain study found that mood had a strong relationship with pain. Plus, you’re more likely to stay indoors and be less active in stormy weather, and we know that inactive joints tend to get stiff and painful.
What can I do to help my pain in stormy weather?
If your joints are acting up during a stormy period, try these tips for reducing the pain.
Keep warm. Dress in layers, apply hot compresses or heating pads, and take warm showers or baths to relax muscles and ease joint pain.
Keep moving. The NHS says that staying still is the worst thing you can do for pain. Do some gentle exercise every day, such as stretching, yoga, walking or swimming. Even on bad days, some light, gentle activity will really help (but don’t overdo it!).
Plan your days. Use the Weather Flare app to monitor the forecast and see which days are more likely to cause your pain to flare up. On those days, you can plan to take it easy and avoid strenuous activities. And if you’re travelling away from home, you can also use Weather Flare to plan for the weather at your destination, so you’ll know if you need to pack warm clothes or reschedule.
Think of your mood. On bad weather days, your mood can plummet and your pain can get worse. Plan some activities for these days to lift your spirits, like a favourite film, a hearty meal, or some fun indoor activities.
The Weather Flare app has been especially designed to help people with chronic pain conditions manage weather-related flare-ups. We’re currently in the beta testing phase of the app, and would love your feedback so we can make it even more useful. Download it today on iOS and Android and let us know what you think!
Help us crowdfund to finish building the Weather Flare app. The finished version will learn how the weather is affecting the user’s condition/s and produce a personalised weather forecast showing good, bearable and tricky days. https://igg.me/at/weatherflare/x#/