The Weather And Joint Pain
For many years arthritis patients have sworn that the weather and joint pain are connected… In fact, this is one reason many older patients move southward, as their joints just feel better. So is this effect real?
This study suggests that an arthritic hip is like a mini-barometer. The authors investigated more than 200 patients with hip arthritis and measured barometric pressure, rain, shine, and relative humidity three times a month over two years.
They used sophisticated statistical analysis to show that changes in barometric pressure and humidity did alter the patient’s hip pain and function. The amazing part was that these weather-related functional declines were responsible for less than 1% of the total hip disability. So somehow these patients are detecting tiny changes in their hip when the fronts come through.
The Smartphone Study on Weather Changes and Chronic Pain
Cloudy with a Chance of Pain, is another weather-pain study, this time out of the University of Manchester in the U.K., in which participants used an app on their smartphones to record and track their pain levels each day. Using GPS, the smartphone automatically collects weather data. Since the app went live in January 2016, over 9,000 people have participated in the study. The study hypothesis is that there is a connection between weather changes and chronic pain, and the data is indeed showing a “consistent correlation between pain and rain and lack of sunshine.” This fits with a prior hip arthritis and weather study previously discussed on the Regenexx blog.
There are over 100 million Americans suffering from hard-to-treat chronic pain. Now that we think there is likely a connection between pain and weather, what does this study mean if you are one of those who is prone to acute attacks of your chronic pain when the weather is changing? It means we can be proactive during those times of the year (e.g., rainy seasons) when the weather is changing and be prepared before the pain kicks in. Let’s look, first, at what not to do when proactively addressing your pain.
What not to do to treat your pain when the weather changes
At the top of our no-no list is narcotics. Previously on the Regenexx blog, there was a study showing narcotics actually prolong and worsen pain. Prescription narcotics include drugs like Percocet, morphine, and opioids, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. They are highly addictive, and abuse of these drugs is common. In fact, in 2015, there were approximately 20,000 deaths from overdoses of prescription narcotics in the U.S. (source: the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which can be viewed at the link above).
Despite this disturbing epidemic of prescription-narcotic deaths, big pharma keeps pushing them, doctors keep routinely prescribing them, and patients keep taking them because they don’t know any other way to address their pain…or because they’ve been taking them so long, they’ve become addicted or dependent on them.
Competing for the top spot on our no-no list are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs can be over-the-counter drugs like naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Motrin and Advil) or prescription drugs including celecoxib (Celebrex) and meloxicam (Mobic).
NSAIDs, quite simply, are bad news!
Weathering the storm
Hip arthritis patients may now consider a career in meteorology. These studies do support that there is a correlation between how these patients feel and the weather, albeit a small one!
Chronic inflammation is often a driving force behind chronic pain. Getting this inflammation under control is a good starting point for dealing with pain. Often, successfully addressing inflammation is enough to keep patients away from dangerous and addicting prescription medications while we find and treat the source of the pain. So how can you address the inflammation?
So, first and foremost, don’t go pop a narcotic or NSAID pill as soon as weather changes trigger your chronic joint pain. Get off the NSAID and narcotic sauce. These can be dangerous ways of dealing with chronic pain, and studies show they prolong rather than fix the pain. If you’d rather get your weather forecast from the weather person than from your joints, start proactively addressing your chronic pain now!