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Can your joints predict when a storm is coming?

Presented by Rexall 6 - TWN

Tuesday, September 27th 2022, 5:00 am - Have you ever heard a family member claim, “I can feel a storm brewing in my joints”? Well some scientific evidence suggests - they may be right.

From muscle aches and pains, joint stiffness and just plain feeling under the weather. Drops in temperatures, changes in atmospheric pressure and the 'winter blues' can all play a role in the pain we feel.

Rexall Pharmacist, Laura Buddo, said weather-induced pain is a common complaint echoed by Canadians.

"We have heard it for years and years, particularly when it comes to migraines or joint pain," said Buddo. "There's some anecdotal evidence that when the weather changes - if there are changes in pressure - systems moving through, people feel it."

The four most common complaints expressed by Canadians are:

  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Muscle Pain
  • Joint pain

According to Arthritis Society Canada many people living with arthritis are convinced that they can predict weather changes based on their joint pain.

For Rheumatoid arthritis advocate and writer, Eileen Davidson, weather induced pain is an everyday reality.

“I live with Rheumatoid arthritis, which is definitely impacted by different types of weather. From the cold to the super hot days, I noticed different types of symptoms will spike. Particularly when it gets cold my muscles contract and tendons contract which adds extra joint pain,” Davidson explained.

Getty Images: Aches and joint pain caused by weather and storms (Stock Image) Rheumatoid arthritis can impacted by different types of weather. (Getty Images/Stock photo)

The big question is why?

Some researchers point the finger at pressure changes in the earth's atmosphere. During a low in atmospheric pressure, you're likely to see unsettled weather out your window, like heavy precipitation, strong winds and relative humidity.

This low barometric pressure may irritate sensitive nerves and cause tissues in your body to swell, creating pains in your muscles and joints.

Along with multiplying muscle aches, the weather may be to blame for triggering migraines.

Let’s look at a study out of Japan to learn more

In 2015, researchers collected daily sales figures of a popular headache medication. They found that sales peaked significantly when barometric pressure decreased - which often happens right before stormy weather hits.

When the outside pressure lowers, it causes a difference between the pressure in the outside air and the air in your sinuses (similar to the sensation of ears popping on an airplane). Because our sinuses are filled with air, any change in that pressure can affect or induce headaches.

Getty Images: Intense lightning strike, thunder, storm (Stock photo) Changes in weather can influence pain. (Getty Images/Stock photo)

While changes in weather may influence pain, it’s lifestyle and mood that can really impact the way we feel on a daily basis.

Davidson, who lives with anxiety and depression, believes her arthritis symptoms tend to worsen during the colder months because of this.

“Especially when we have less vitamin D. So my symptoms do go off, because I'm usually more sedentary and mood plays a real[ly] big factor on pain levels as well. You just don't cope with pain as much as you do say in the summer months with all the distractions,” Davidson said.

How to cope

To help cope with seasonal depression, body aches and pain, Buddo recommends staying active and getting outdoors often. Physical activity can help to strengthen bones and muscles, improve circulation and is proven to help reduce anxiety.

“In the colder temperatures we tend to not be as active, we're not moving as much and sometimes we’re more sedentary," Buddo explained. "We're going to feel it in our joints and our muscles. If we're not dressing for the weather, we're going to be a bit more stiff. While our body is great at regulating our internal temperature, it’s important to dress for the weather.”

For some at home remedies to help reduce pain, Buddo recommended:

  • Consume more fruits and vegetables
  • Staying hydrated
  • Vitamin D
  • Exercise
  • Ice or heat packs
  • Warm clothes

Davidson swears by many of these health tips.

“Exercise is definitely my favorite option for reducing pain and handling any temperature… I also find that the sauna helps a lot, especially in the colder months. And having a freezer full of ice packs,” added Davidson.

Getty Images: Friends, happy, enjoying time, outdoors It's important to stay active even during cooler months. (Getty Images/Stock photo)

When to see a healthcare professional

Keep an eye on your pain levels throughout the seasons and make notes on your pain severity.

If you experience sudden and severe pain or if pain lasts longer than three months - it's time to see a doctor, said Buddo.

When it comes to easing pain, over the counter medications can certainly help. Buddo suggested speaking with a pharmacist first to guide you in the right direction.

“With over the counter medications your pharmacist can really help tailor an option that works for you and your medication. If you're using two different products, we want to make sure that there's no overlapping ingredients just to make sure people aren't getting too much medication,” Buddo said.

While we all have to face mother nature, even on her worst days, it doesn’t mean you can't get the most out of the colder seasons ahead.

Remember to pay close attention to your pain, stay active and stay on top of the weather for the best results - and hopefully a lot less pain!

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