Rain, Rain, Go Away: Rheumatoid Arthritis And The Weather

Leslie Rott Health Guide
  • I don’t know about where you are, but in Michigan, we had been having fairly constant rain for what felt like close to a month. We were getting one nice day a week, and the rest were rainy, cold, and gray. And it truly made me crazy!


    I had a headache all the time. It felt like someone was stabbing me between the eyes. My pain level was up, and for part of the time, I was just barely functional. I just didn’t feel good at all.


    And since I’m not g-d, and can’t change the weather, what am I supposed to do at times like this? I guess function the best I can and hope the weather gets better pronto.

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    As the days cycled through rain, on and off, so did the way that I felt physically, and subsequently, impacted my mood, as well.


    Some of us say that we are human barometers. I know that I feel the rain even before it comes. There is something about those low lying clouds that literally clog my brain.


    And arthritics aren’t the only ones who feel this way. Other diseases are also affected by changes in barometric pressure (see "The Effects of Barometric Pressure on Joints & Muscles"). The change in barometric pressure actually causes a decrease in mobility and an increase in joint inflammation. And although there is an increase in symptoms that can occur along with changing weather patterns, doctors emphasize that this does not mean that there is an increase in joint damage occurring, as well (see "Whether Weather Affects Arthritis").


    And for those of us with mobility problems to begin with, it truly becomes a vicious circle. I don’t have a car, so I have to walk everywhere. The rain obviously made getting around more difficult, but it was also more difficult to get around because I simply was not feeling well.


    I’ve often joked that when I am done with graduate school, I want to move to a place where the climate is relatively warm throughout the year, with very little humidity. As it turns out, just as barometric pressure changes impact arthritis, humidity also has physiological effects on symptomology. Although apparently moving to another climate has not been found to be beneficial to overall functioning (see "Whether Weather Affects Arthritis").


    As soon as it stopped raining and the sun came out, I felt immediately better. My pain decreased, the headache and feeling of being unwell went away, and my mood improved dramatically.


    There was a study done in the 1960s, in which people with arthritis were put into a barometric pressure chamber to see the impact of changing pressure on their symptoms. And this makes me wonder. Could an “ideal” arthritic climate be created, and people could spend a certain amount of time in the enclosed space; so that at times when the actual weather is terrible, the simulated weather “in a bottle” is perfect?


    While there might not be a medical diagnosis or a specific name for it, I definitely think that there is a lot of truth that rheumatoid arthritis is impacted by the weather. Just ask me how I’m feeling the next time it rains…

Published On: June 08, 2011