Monday, July 11, 2011

The Pressure Cooker: ABC's of RA and barometric pressure

The weather is a changing and I know.  I would know if my eyes were closed, my ears blocked from hearing….my joints just seem to know. So as the weather here in southeastern NC begins to rumble and roll….my joints begin to ache. 

It is like a clock for me but one that I have yet to completely understand how to read.  I do know that when I lived in sunny southern California where the weather tends to be more stable, my joint pain didn't fluctuate as much. But this isn't to say that sunny California is a place we should all take up residency in.  

That is where I was first diagnosed with ra and where for 1 1/2 years straight my joints screamed constantly.  Oh well…so much for that theory.  But on the flip side, when I have visited California, I do notice my joints don't flip/flop with the weather as much. Could be a placebo effect but I do enjoy the reprieve when I get it.  My Mom always told me, "Never look a gift horse in the mouth." So I don't.  Could be because I always believed and wanted to reply but didn't, "Because she will bite you. Right?"

Medicine Net seemed to have the best overall review of this topic:
"First, there hasn't been much real research science. In 1961, a famous arthritis specialist, J. Hollander M.D., conducted a study in which he built a climate chamber and demonstrated that high humidity combined with low barometric pressure were associated with increased joint pain and stiffness. Neither weather factor by itself seemed to influence joint symptoms. The study has been criticized because of the limited number of patients evaluated (12 patients). The theory of the study is that inflamed joints swell as the barometric pressure drops. This swelling irritates the nerves around the joints that sense pain and causes more stiffness."

And looking out on the great Internet there isn't much more scientific research that has been done on this topic. So I am left to my own non-scientific evaluation to try and come up with what do I feel when the weather changes, particularly wet, hot, stormy weather.

Not very good is all I can say!

And from Medicine Net Directly:
"The bottom line is that while the exact cause(s) of the activation of arthritis symptoms may not yet be scientifically understood, each patient must make lifestyle and/or medication adjustments according to the particular weather conditions that they note influence their symptoms."

Does this mean I am due another vacation trip to check out my hypothesis?


Further reading if you are interested:
Full article on Medicine Net: Whether Weather Affects Arthritis

6 comments:

Cathy said...

My previous rheumatologist used to always say there wasn't any research to back up weather changes and joint pain. My husband noticed right away that spring was a challenge for me. One of the first questions my naturopath asked was how weather affects me. We can definitely tell, can't we? I hope your hands feel better.

Wren said...

I live in Northern California, Deb, and while the weather here is mild, it's not as "perfect" as the year-round warm, sunny weather associated with the southern part of the state. And guess what? Like you, I'm intimately aware of changes in barometric pressure because my joints become tender and, frequently, painful. I was diagnosed with RA while I lived in Northern Germany, back in the late 80s. It's cold and rainy there a good portion of the year, and the brief summer season, while warmer and sunnier, is frequently humid. So I thought that maybe when I came back to the States my pain would change. After all, haven't we all heard for years about how good a warm, dry climate is for arthritis.
Heh. Dream on.
I've never quite understood why medical science has chosen not to study the relationship between RA pain and the weather, whether it be barometric ups and downs or the variations of hot, cold, wet and dry. They treat what those of us who experience these changes as discomfort and pain like we're all woo-woo, or like children who believe in the tooth fairy. Well, harumph! to all that. A great many of us who cope with RA know, without any doubt at all, that the weather can and often does influence the day-to-day condition of the disease.
I'm rambling, but really, thanks for bringing this subject up. Perhaps some curious young medical researcher will notice how so many of us write about this phenomenon and how we meet with frustration when inquiring about it. Perhaps that person will conduct a solid study. It might not do anything but prove we aren't nutcakes, but you know what? That's enough for me.
;)

Thrive With RA said...

Hi Deb,

I've read that emotions play as large a role as location/climate in RA joint pain. I find that to be true for me, in that I can be in different climates (not that I've been vacationing much the last year since onset, mind you) and it can change -- more so for the emotional release of change of venue/vacation mindset than the actual climate. That being said, I do notice after a storm or dramatic change in weather that I say to myself, "Ah, no wonder the pain was more acute yesterday or the day before." So, barometric pressure and emotion/stress reduction seem to be equally relevant for me.

Hope you're feeling better soon. No big change in weather where I am, but I still got a big dose of reality, as RA reminded me that it has a mind of its own with no regard for my wants or needs, as it has come-a-callin', stompin' its feet, letting me know that my long streak of optimal mobility and pain-free-ness has lasted long enough for the time being. Ugh. There's always tomorrow though! ;-)

TWRA

Deb aka murphthesurf said...

Cathy...bahumbug on the rheumies. I bet they would be talking a different talk if they had ra. Yup, no doubt in my mind whatsoever. Your naturopath is one smart cookie...obviously weather is going to impact us! Duh!

Wren...we ain't nut cakes. We know our bodies, science just needs to catch up with us that is all. I wish they would investigate alot of things regarding ra. Oh well...at least we all have each other to confirm what we already suspect :-)

TWRA...just wish that a big wind would come along and blow that flare of yours away...far away. And yes I have no doubt emotional upset can trigger a flare as well as happiness reduce a flare. I hope you start to feel better an soon.

And thank you all for posting. I really do appreciate your comments!

WendyBird said...

I've never been one to feel weather changes (thank goodness). I have the biggest problems with emotional issues, stress makes my RA go nuts way more than a storm. Good thing since I live in a very humid climate and have to run dehumidifiers year round :-p

Deb aka murphthesurf said...

Wendy...you are one of the first raers I have ever heard that weather changes do not impact their swelling and/or pain levels. I think stress can be just as bad for some people but I have learned to try and let whatever stresses me to roll off my back the best I can. Just so long as I replenish my soul every once in awhile with positive things, the negative tend to roll off...overall. Now if I can just get that into practice 100% of the time.