Many times, patients complain of increased pain "because of the weather." On a single day, there are easily 4-5 patients complaining that their joints hurt because of the weather being colder, or because rain is imminent. This change in pain that occurs with climate or weather shifts is called meteoropathy.
Many patients with different types of arthritis or headaches, as well as patients who have had surgeries with implants, will likely experience this at some point. Even patients with less common conditions, like multiple sclerosis, may feel their discomfort levels increase or decrease based on what's happening outside their windows.
Can Weather Elevate Pain Levels?
As a chronic pain management specialist, I often tell patients that we are barometers or thermometers. The weather's impact on chronic pain will typically occur when the barometric pressure, the temperature, or rain are falling. A Tufts University study found arthritis pain can worsen with every 10-degree drop in temperature.
However, other studies have shown that when the barometric pressure and humidity increase, patients will have more pain. Maybe it is a degree of change depending on our initial point of pressure, temperature, or humidity. At Florida Pain Relief Centers, our chronic pain physicians treat many patients who have moved to the South with the hope that warmer weather will alleviate their discomfort.
The Science Behind Meteoropathy
How does meteoropathy really happen? The truth is we don’t know. Studies conducted in an attempt to identify the impact or explain the exact mechanism have been inconclusive so far.
A recent Medicare study found no significant increase in medical office visits due to weather conditions. A European study netted similar results. Getting to the root cause of the weather's impact on chronic pain will play an essential role in helping to minimize its occurrence and influences in our daily lives.
There are several theories about how and why climate affects pain levels in patients with various chronic and acute conditions, such as:
- Nerves in damaged joints might be exposed, making them sensitive to changes
- Low temperature makes joint fluid thicker, causing swelling and inflammation
- People don’t move as much in colder temperatures, which may trigger a pain event
An interesting study conducted with rats suggests that the inner ear can detect changes in barometric pressure and might be an important piece of the puzzle. They have been able to block increases in nerve pain by performing lesions in rats’ inner ears. They have also been able to identify a marker in the rats’ inner ears that changes with barometric pressure.
Managing Pain Symptoms Due to Meteorpathy
Just because we haven't pinpointed the cause of meteorpathy doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Knowing a few simple tips can help patients counteract any weather-related upswings in pain.
- Keeping active, no matter what the temperature outside, can make a significant difference in the amount of pain experienced by patients.
- Dietary modifications that reduce inflammation and swelling can also help reduce discomfort levels.
- Finally, staying warm can deliver added protection against any temperature-related aches and pains.
Contact Florida Pain Relief Centers for Your Consultation
Are you struggling with weather-based pain episodes? We can help. At Florida Pain Relief Centers, we consult with our patients to develop a customized treatment approach that considers a wide range of factors including condition, daily habits, outdoor temperatures, and more.
Contact our team to schedule your physician consultation today at 800.215.0029, or click the button below to schedule your consultation online.