That is a phenomenon that has been observed since the time of Hippocrates some 2500 years ago! He noted that many afflictions were related to changes in the weather and I myself, have noticed that I see more patients before and after a bout of stormy weather. Some conditions such as arthritis, back pain, headaches, joint pain and fibromyalgia seem especially sensitive to weather changes. Sound familiar with the recent weather?
Suspected causes include humidity, precipitation, temperature, thunderstorms and ionized air. Most research indicates that the lowering barometric pressure that occurs with approaching storms is to blame. One study published by the International Journal of Biometeorology in 2010 established a direct connection between low barometric pressure, inflammation and joint pain. Another study published in 2002 by the Journal of Spinal Disorders and Techniques concluded that “back pain may be aggravated by atmospheric depression in patients with lumbar disc disease.” Further, the American Journal of Medicine published a 2007 study indicating that “changes in barometric pressure are independently associated with osteoarthritis knee pain severity”.
The most likely explanation is the expansion of fluid in swollen joints when the barometric pressure drops. Inflammation that results from joint dysfunction will bring more fluid into and surrounding the joint and thus, more pressure inside the joint capsule. Imagine a balloon in a sealed bucket represents an inflamed joint. When the pressure in the bucket (the atmosphere surrounding the joint) is lowered, the balloon expands pressing against the denser structures making up the joint itself such as bone, ligaments and pain receptors!
Pain with changes in the weather indicates that there is some degree of underlying joint inflammation already present. This may be due to improper biomechanics, pro-inflammatory diet, or old trauma. This pretty much drives home what we chiropractors have been saying for many years: that there is no substitution for restoring proper bio-mechanic joint function, exercise, and healthy nutrition.