Weather and Arthritis - Is There a Connection?

Do Weather Changes Truly Affect Arthritis?

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Many people with arthritis claim that weather affects how they feel. Some people believe that symptoms of arthritis, such as joint pain and joint stiffness, are influenced by changes in the weather. Is there actually a connection between weather and arthritis symptoms? If yes, why is the effect of weather changes on arthritis symptoms true for some people but not for others? And, finally, a frequently asked question—where is the best place to live, in terms of climate, if you have arthritis?

Weather and Arthritis Symptoms

According to rheumatologist, Scott J. Zashin, MD, "It is not uncommon for patients with arthritis to notice an increase in symptoms with certain weather conditions. For example, some of my patients can predict when it will soon rain based on their symptoms. Others feel terrific in places that have increased barometric pressure, but hurt more in locations where the pressure is lower."

Dr. Zashin continued, "In fact, a patient of mine felt so well when he vacationed in Destin, Florida that he developed a small chamber that would raise the barometric pressure to a level that replicated Destin. He would sit in the chamber for 30 minutes twice a day and was able to discontinue his medications. Due to his relief, I conducted a very small study that exposed patients to 30 minutes in a placebo chamber and 12 hours later in the "Rejuvenator" (the chamber that was developed to have an increase in barometric pressure), as well as another study that included one 30 minute placebo session and two 30 minute "Rejuvenator" treatments over 3 days.

The majority of the patients had clinical improvement using the chamber with the increased barometric pressure. Side effects included self-limited symptoms of ear pressure, sinus pressure and "windburn". Based on the results of the preliminary study, more testing was recommended to further study the potential benefits and risks of this therapy."

Further Studies

Further support for an effect on atmospheric pressure in arthritis was published in the Proceedings of the Western Pharmacology Society in 2004. In this prospective, double blind study, 92 patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis were compared to a control group of 42 subjects. The authors concluded that the osteoarthritis patients experienced increased joint pain with a low atmospheric pressure while low temperature increased the risk of joint pain in the rheumatoid arthritis group. Another study published in the Journal of Rheumatology in 2004 demonstrated that high humidity was unfavorable for arthritis patients. Based on these particular studies, it would seem that a location that tends to have a higher barometric pressure and lower humidity would represent a favorable environment for people with arthritis.

Another study published in the Journal of Rheumatology in 2015 examined whether daily weather conditions, 3-day average weather conditions, and changes in weather conditions influence joint pain in older people with osteoarthritis in 6 European countries. Study results revealed that associations between pain and daily average weather conditions suggested a causal relationship between joint pain and weather variables, however, the associations between day-to-day weather changes and pain did not confirm causation.

Best Place to Live?

Dr. Zashin has an answer ready for patients who ask him where the best place to live is for people with arthritis, "For those patients who ask me where the best place for them to live is in terms of climate, I suggest live where you will be happiest and certainly if you decide to move somewhere based on arthritis, make sure you try it out by spending plenty of time there during different seasons before making any move."


Scott J. Zashin, MD, is a clinical assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Division of Rheumatology, in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Zashin is also an attending physician at Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas and Plano. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Rheumatology and a member of the American Medical Association.

Timmermans EJ et al. The Influence of Weather Conditions on Joint Pain in Older People with Osteoarthritis: Results from the European Project on OSteoArthritis. Journal of Rheumatology. 2015 Oct;42(10):1885-92.

Weather Conditions Can Influence Rheumatic Diseases. Proceedings of the Western Pharmacology Society 47:134-6 · February 2004

Wiebe R. Patberg and Johannes J. Rasker. Weather Effects in Rheumatoid Arthritis: From Controversy to Consensus. A Review. Journal  of Rheumatology. 2004.

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