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Joint Pain During Monsoons

Jonathan Fox  

Jonathan Fox, MD, is an orthopedic surgeon at Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa, Ariz.

Question:  With the monsoons here, I find that I seem to have more joint pain. Can the weather really affect my joints?

Answer: Yes, your joints pain is can probably a better indicator than your local weather station, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t turn off the news or the radio just yet.

Arizona residents are fortunate enough to be in a relatively warm, dry climate with less flair ups than other parts of the country. That is why monsoon season pain can be such a shock for some. 

There has been a lot research in trying to figure out the exact scientific mechanisms that bring about weather-related joint pain. 

Weather-related joint pain is usually seen in patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and most commonly affects hips, knees, elbows, shoulders and hands. The joints contain sensory nerves called baroreceptors that can detect barometric changes.  The receptors especially react when there is low barometric pressure, such as before a rain storm may occur. People with arthritic joints seem to be more sensitive to the barometric changes.

Some research has suggested that high humidity combined with low barometric pressure are associated with increased joint pain and stiffness although either one could be a factor.  Interestingly,relocating to a different area does not seem to diminish symptoms in the long run. Scientific studies have shown that people's bodies establish an new equilibrium to their local environment, so your body adjusts to wear you live. 

Symptoms of certain persons are influenced by weather changes but it is not predictable what type of weather changes will bother people.  It is important to realize that only symptoms such as pain and stiffness are influenced by weather. Weather cannot not cause joint damage or arthritis.  In summary, lowering barometric pressure as seen with an approaching storm or elevation of attitude, and increase in humidity can influence the development of joint pain and stiffness.

The best advice I can give to you is to be as proactive as possible –all year round, regardless of the weather. Drink plenty of water, and keep your joints active by doing non-weight bearing exercises and stretches. Omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate may also be very beneficial.

Reviewed August 2010

Page Last Modified: 08/19/2010
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