It's a relatively common belief that the weather makes a difference to aches and pains, but is there any truth to this? And if cold or damp weather does exacerbate symptoms, what are the reasons for this?
A consensus exists in scientific literature that rheumatoid arthritis is affected by prevailing weather conditions, with high humidity particularly associated with worsening of symptoms. There also appears to be seasonal variation, with spring a particularly bad time of year.
The reasons for these variations remain unclear, and since rheumatoid arthritis is a relatively uncommon cause of joint pain it is difficult to generalise to other causes.
There is much more controversy over whether other joint problems, such as osteoarthritis or gout, are affected by the weather.
Some research suggests that low atmospheric pressure allows joint membranes to swell more than normal, which can lead to pain and stiffness, but the reliability of these findings is very poor.
Since it is very difficult to study such changeable and complex variables as weather and pain, one study took an interesting approach to this question and examined whether joint pain is more or less common in hot or cold areas of the United States.
If warmer weather really does make joints feel less painful, then it should follow that joint pain is less common in hot areas.
After controlling for age, weight, and other factors, the authors of this study found that joint pain was no more, or less, common in any part of the country, whether typically warm or cold.
This is an incredibly complex issue, and there is an almost overwhelming quantity of contradictory research, but in summary it seems that any effect of the weather is small, if present at all.