Saturday, October 8, 2016

Knee Pain and the Weather

Here’s a rather in-depth article about the relationship between pain and weather. The authors pored over a lot of different studies to reach their conclusions. Which are ...

That the link betwen the two is unclear. Actually, to be more accurate, it appears rather weak.

They looked at a number of painful physical conditions, from arthritis to migraine pain. I’m going to stick with the osteoarthritis end of things, as that’s what those of you with bad knees care most about.

Why should the weather influence perceptions of knee pain in the first place? Some theories:

* When bad weather moves in and barometric pressure drops, the surrounding air pushes on the joint with less force, allowing tissues to expand and causing uncomfortable pressure.

* Or, an alternative theory is changes in barometric pressure “may augment cytokine pathways.” More cytokine activity may damage host cells.

* A combo of rain, cold temperatures, and low pressure may cause pain by increasing swelling in the joint.

I encourage you to read the whole article, if you want more. I’m going to jump to the conclusion and in particular this line.
Studies that typically report the strongest correlation between meteorological phenomena and onset of pain are often poorly designed, utilizing self-report mail surveys and small sample sizes, not blinding participants to the research hypotheses, or relying on subjective memory recall.
Okay, that’s not hopeful if you’re trying to prove a connection between weather and pain. Still, the authors note that the issue is far from settled. At the least, certain individuals could be more sensitive to changes in the weather.

I’m not sure myself. I did think my knees were a bit crankier in Hong Kong when a big storm was nearing. And weather effects on one level make sense to me: the lousier the weather, the more likely you are to be unhappy, and there is a definite link between depression and pain.

What about everyone out there? Do changes in the weather affect how your knees feel?


  1. I was thinking a lot about the weather and my knees lately. Perhaps because the seasons are now turning in my area and I wondered whether this impacts me a lot. I was just comparing my notes with weather charts when I saw this post. I found out that my last two flare ups coincided with abrupt shifts in weather conditions. But does that provide sufficient evidence?

    In general, I start more and more to appreciate the work of Dr. Dye who studied also anthropology by the way, which is a hint where this out of the box thinking stems from. His image of the knee function is portrayed as being mosaic. That is to say multifactorial and quite individual, perhaps that is why it is so hard to brake the code and get the body into healing mode. And also that is why I am very skeptical that scientific research can come up with a definite conclusion how weather impacts the knees any time soon.
    In my suffering thus far, I mapped that the pain/inflammation swings along three phases: There's an active phase, where all hell is brake loose. Then after 3 months of discipline I started to enter more often in relatively passive phase of suffering, where things are a bit more bearable&positive. In between those two there is a liminal/intermediate phase. More and more I begin to think that it is crucial to recognize this fleeting stage and act accordingly. Because in the liminal phase of pain/inflammation the scales can go either way and here is where the right decisions of modifying activity can make a difference.

    In that respect, it could very well be that in certain individual circumstances the weather could be a tipping point that impacts the knee suffering.


  2. I haven't noticed anything but this suggests a link:

  3. Thanks Richard for this new post.
    in my case I have found a correlation between some pain crisis and pressure changes, mainly big storms. It has happened a few times, but not always...

  4. Very true, Weather may indeed play a role in knee pain, and more doctors are considering the connection to be valid. However you treat and manage your pain, you can take comfort in the fact that science may support your forecasting ability.

  5. I haven't noticed anything, but all my knee problems are in the synovium. I think bone has to be involved before you get the weather "benefits".

  6. How fancy... After a break of almost 6 months from this blog, I return to find this article. I took a break because I've been thinking less about my knees. Because they are a lot better and any flare up tends to be less painful and lasts for only a day or two. I'm able to hike, skate, run a tiny bit, climb stairs two by two, walk in high heels on uneven pavement and a lot more. Although I haven't yet gone back to cycling as it was aggravating things in the early days.
    But I ALWAYS know when the weather is taking a turn, before even I open my curtains. Which dismisses the 'you might feel a bit more morose and your pain receptors will be higher'theory. I can feel a deep burning ache in my bones around my knees when it's rainy. Not as bad as before, which seems to indicate that my knees have really improved

    1. This is great to hear, Deloupy. If at some time you want to share your full success story (it sounds like it pretty much is one at this point) -- everything from the initial injury, to what you tried that worked and didn't work, and how you came out feeling better on the other side -- you're welcome to. If you write something out and post it in the comments, I can make a blog post to ensure it gets more attention. But if you prefer not to share, that's fine too. It's just people love reading success stories (me included). Cheers and congrats.