It is a condition I have heard about and, at times, experienced for as long as I can remember. Someone stops to rub their wrist or knee and says, “Rain must be coming. My joints are acting up again.”
The mystery is why should external weather affect internal symptoms. Is it that cloudy days make us moody and pessimistic? Or is there a more scientific reason for the connection?
I am not a weather expert, but I have long suspected the common pain felt with stormy weather has to do with changes in pressure. We are pressurized beings. Our chemistry and fluids are held in place with precise balance. Consider what happens when a deepsea diver comes up to the surface too quickly — extreme pain (called the bends) is inflicted, because nitrogen gases have not been reabsorbed properly in the bloodstream between the extreme pressure of the deep ocean and the considerably lower pressure of air.
I did a little bit of research, and discovered that other sources (such as Johns Hopkins University) agree with my theory. Storms are caused by low pressure fronts moving into the area. When the air pressure is lower, pressure inside the body may expand tissues slightly, increasing swelling and — in the case of arthritis — increasing pain.
If you are looking to obliterate the effect of the weather on your body, you will probably fail. But you can lower the arthritis pain you feel on sunny and rainy days at least a little with some healthy lifestyle changes.
• Get adjusted by your chiropractor to facilitate healing and lower inflammation in the joints.
• Eat a non-inflammatory diet: more vegetables, less (or no) sugar, more vitamin C.
• Glucosamine/chondroitin supplements can help to heal and maintain your joint surfaces.
Boosting the healing process in damaged joints with exercise, supplements, diet and chiropractic adjustments starts a snowball effect of better function. When joints move well, they create their own synovial fluid, which is a natural lubricant. More lube in the joints means even better movement with less friction and pain, which leads to less inflammation.
Before you know it, you’ll be predicting a Nor’Easter like a person without arthritis — by checking the forecast on the Internet. For those like my father, you’ll just have to check the good old Farmer’s Almanac.
Dr. Meghan Palmer is a freelance writer and chiropractor in Rogersville, Tenn.