Do you suffer from osteoarthritis and notice an intensification of your pain in rainy weather or when it is cold? Science has obviously been interested in this phenomenon, but the results of the studies are contradictory. “It seems that it is atmospheric pressure rather than temperature that can influence the joint symptomsthis being different depending on the humidity in the air”, explains the rheumatologist.
Understanding osteoarthritis: what are the symptoms?
“Osteoarthritis is a very common osteoarticular disease affecting approximately 10% of the population. It mainly affects the spine, knees, hips and hands and progresses through crises.”, explains Dr. Laclau. Genetic predispositions, age, heredity, female gender, repeated carrying of heavy loads and a history of joint injuries or fractures represent risk factors.
When it becomes symptomatic, osteoarthritis causes pain, which is worse with exercise, and functional discomfort. Under the effect of mechanical, inflammatory and metabolic stress induced by osteoarthritis, all tissues (synovium, bone, cartilage) will undergo changes. This will notably lead to progressive degradation of the cartilage, inflammation of the synovial membrane and the formation of osteophytes (bony growths).
Osteoarthritis: what are the factors that (really) influence pain?
“Osteoarthritis is not necessarily synonymous with pain, in fact it is an anatomical and imaging description. There is also no correlation between pain and the severity of osteoarthritis.”, recalls Dr. Stéphanie Laclau, rheumatologist. “The factors that seem to have a real impact on pain are overweight and lack of activity/ sedentary lifestyle for the joints of the lower limbs”, she adds.
Concerning the impact of weather and temperatures, the results of the studies are not very significant. Researchers from the University of Manchester (England) published a study on the subject in 2019 in the journal Nature. Over 15 months, 2,658 people suffering from chronic pain recorded the intensity of their daily pain using an application on their smartphone. The phone’s GPS location was then linked to weather data.
The researchers then observed that days with higher humidity, lower pressure and stronger winds were more likely to lead to increased pain than other days. “The analysis found significant but modest relationships between pain and relative humidity, pressure, and wind speed, with correlations remaining even after accounting for mood and physical activity.”, details the study. Similar results have been observed in other studies, but they are not clear enough to affirm a real correlation between pain and weather.
Thanks to Dr. Stéphanie Laclau, rheumatologist.
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