Have you ever heard your pops say it’ll rain just by feeling through his knees? Perhaps it could also be you that’s been aching too long. Let’s all find out and prove if humidity really affects arthritis or if this could be just another old wive’s tale.
There’s been a few theories as to how joint pains correlate with the weather. Some people believe they feel more pain in the cold and rainy weather, but some also testify that they feel it more painful in the warm and dry climate.
Is there, in fact, a relationship between weather and arthritis? The thing is, there are some researches that support the arthritis-weather connection, but there are also some studies that fail to get a solid conclusion.
The main concern here remains the same, what is the best weather for someone with arthritis? How and what humidity level should they keep to avoid feeling joint pains again?
How Weather Affects Arthritis Pain?
People suffering from Osteoarthritis (OA) are usually the ones to notice joint pain and weather sensitivity. According to a study done in 2014, a majority of 67.2% of participants perceived that the weather affects the way they feel joint pains.
This study was contradicting earlier research done in 2011 where it concluded that the weather does not in general, affect arthritis pain, rheumatoid arthritis, particularly. The study extensively revolved around three major weather variables, relative humidity, temperature, and barometric pressure.
So which is which? I find myself caught up in the web of maybe’s. I do know for a fact that my old man used to complain of joint pain when it was gloomy or when a storm is about to hit the ground, and Aunt Elsa, our neighbor, can attest to that!
Immersing in countless research, I’ll break down the common denominators of these scientific studies so you’ll have a better and clearer idea. If you are feeling under the weather as the seasons change lately, then the barometric pressure is the one to blame.
Your knees might feel a little or too swollen when the barometric pressure rises or falls. This is backed by a study published online that shifts in barometric pressure are independently correlated with osteoarthritis (OA) knee pain.
Studies show a variety of weather factors can increase pain, especially
- Barometric pressure (falling)
- Temperature (lowering)
Indoor humidity triggers joint pains, too. In fact, we are talking about the indoor environment. Whether it’s high or low humidity, surely, you will hear old people crack up a bit.
Low Indoor Humidity and Arthritis
Flare-ups do happen a lot and can trigger more when there’s dry air, more so in a contained space. I usually hear from a lot of people, especially the boomers that the cold weather is not their best season.
At first, I thought the discomfort they feel was just because of the winter. The freezing weather actually prompts a lot of sicknesses such as allergies, flu, congestion, and more.
But, as I go through the relationship between humidity and arthritis, I learned that when there is minimal water vapor in the air, it has a higher barometric pressure. Therefore, the pressure on the joints causes further pain and distress.
The increased barometric pressure in a low indoor humidity environment causes arthritis pain. Safe to say, your dad could be right when predicting the weather by feeling his knees and joints.
How to Manage Arthritis Pain in Low Humidity Conditions
Since the festive season has already begun, you can’t just let arthritis pain ruin everything you had been planning the past year. Although drinking medications could greatly relieve the pain, I recommend that you create a well-balanced program to support your body and overcome arthritis pain.
Dr. Ami Kothari, MD, a rheumatologist of the Illinois Bone & Joint Institute highly suggested a few activities that you could do to alleviate joint pain during the winter season.
- Keep Warm, Dress in Layers
- Rest Well, Get enough sleep
- Be active, exercise, and loosen up
- Maintain a healthy weight
He also noted that eating the right kinds of food is critical in managing arthritis pain. Just a friendly reminder this holiday, huge bites on super delicious food are exciting but keep a balanced amount to avoid suffering joint pains. (Hi Dad!)
High Indoor Humidity and Arthritis
A very interesting phenomenon that I have discovered with arthritis is that it does not just occur during the cold season. If you are more concerned about your knees and hips in the winter, you should also be careful in the warmer weather.
There are studies that link milder cases of arthritis pain during the spring and summer or when there is high humidity.
When the indoor humidity is very high and the barometric pressure is low, you may also experience increased pain, swelling, or stiffness. The atmospheric pressure usually causes levels of fluids in the body to shift.
Note that, it’s not the weather that’s mainly to blame, it’s the way that the barometric pressure affects the weather and causes the symptoms to flare.
Easing Arthritis Pain in High Humidity
If you have read up until here and you made a self conclusion to move to a warmer location to reduce joint pains, well, that’s not exactly the case.
No climate will prevent you from having arthritis although, warmer climates can sometimes reduce the pain. In fact, no one is free from getting this condition because roughly 52.5 million adults in the United States were reported to feel some form of arthritis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Keep your hopes up, there are always other means to beat arthritis especially in a high humidity condition.
- Keep Hydrated all day - probably you heard this several times before, but it’s very helpful. If you plan to spend a lot of time outside it’s crucial to keep your body hydrated. As the blood isn’t circulating properly, dehydration can cause stiffened tissues in the back. So, drink as much water as possible, it’s very important for you.
- Swimming - take advantage of the warm weather and go swimming. Swimming is a great type of therapy for joint pain. Also, consider joining a water therapy program.
- Biking - is also a great low-impact form of exercise if you have back or spinal pain. If you can’t do it outdoors, then a stationary bicycle is also a great choice.
- Heating pad - can also help to soothe joint and muscle pains.
- Keep a recommended weight - being overweight can contribute to arthritis pain and increase complications of arthritis. Lifestyle changes usually result in gradual weight loss and are often the most effective method.
- Acupuncture - can get pain relief for some people when a trained acupuncturist inserts hair-thin needles at specific points on your body. It may be necessary to go to several treatments before you notice an improvement.
- Consult your doctor - when the pain is already out of hand, it is better to consult your doctor for better management and medication.
Lastly, avoid activities that involve high collision and repetitive motion, like tennis, jumping, running, high-impact aerobics. Although, there are people who suffer from arthritis that are into these activities, better to stay on the safe side if you are not a professional.
Humidifier Or Dehumidifier? That Is The Question
At this point, you already know which one to use when. Since the majority of people suffering from arthritis feel pain when there’s low humidity, a humidifier perfectly fits into the picture.
Having a humidifier at home does not just add moisture to the air to prevent dryness but is also particularly effective for treating known symptoms of arthritis. Well, I should say that it hits two birds with one stone. 😉
However, there is one thing you should highly consider when looking for a humidifier that can help you ease out joint pains. Look for models that have a humidistat or get a hygrometer separately installed.
Why? Because you need a balanced relative indoor humidity level which is at the range between 40-60%. More than that is not good for you, your health, and your surroundings.
Another crucial factor that you need to remember is the placement of the humidifier. It should be positioned that allows a free-flow movement of the moisture through the entire room.
Usually, you can place the unit in the central part of the room for faster and efficient humidification. However, you must consider a lot of factors such as children, pets, and other furniture.
Mind you, my pops loved his humidifier and he can attest that his arthritis pain is well-managed with the help of this appliance. If you are looking for a humidifier as a gift for your parents, or elderly, find those that are easy to use and maintain.
It’s Hot and Knee-jerking!
Usually, in spring and summertime, when the relative humidity level is over 60%, the indoor environment is not too comfortable. It can cause mold or mildew growth and some people, particularly those of the senior age groups complain of swelling.
If the weather’s warmer and your knees and hips are swelling, it’s because there’s too much humidity in the air and this condition puts more pressure on your joints. Stay hydrated, That’s the very first thing to do.
You might need to turn on your air conditioning unit to reduce humidity but this might not relieve arthritis pain. A dehumidifier does the job better in getting rid of the excess air moisture and provides quick relief from joint pains, well, apart from taking medications, of course.
This appliance works best when you have an accurate humidity reading to avoid over-dehumidifying which is also not a good idea. Still, a built-in humidistat or a hygrometer is your best pal in giving you the exact percentage.
When looking for the right unit, always check the total room size and the total capacity of the dehumidifier. Some units include a water reservoir while others have a continuous drain option where you can simply attach a hose and let it drain in the sink or the toilet. What I love best about dehumidifiers is that you can absolutely leave it on 24/7 and it’s totally safe.
Most of the newer models today showcase an auto shut-off feature that does not need any interference once the desired humidity level is achieved.
By merely using a dehumidifier, you are not just managing your arthritis pain but rather making your home more comfortable.
There’s no need to get a dehumidifier if the relative humidity is managed by the air conditioning system. It depends on where you live, honestly. If you are from Arizona, well I guess, you should highly consider one.
To answer the question - Does humidity affect arthritis? I would say, in a way yes. I won’t conclude that it does really affect because arthritis, as I have understood, is a case to case scenario.
This condition highly depends on the individual inflicted, and the type of arthritis he or she has. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which usually occurs in older people or those that have their cartilage joint surface worn out. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease that attacks the body due to the malfunctioning of the immune system.
However, studies cited in this article both offered an indirect association of humidity and weather with arthritis. In fact, the only denominator among the researches done by experts is the barometric pressure on the given weather.
You don’t have to move to a warmer climate to feel less pain.
All-year-round, people with arthritis may experience pain depending on the rising and lowering of the atmospheric pressure.
Luckily, pain management is easy with the help of humidifiers and dehumidifiers, apart from medications, proper exercise, and food intake. The most comfortable indoor humidity is between 40-60% so you should keep an eye when it goes lower or higher than that.
Overall, this post aims to give you an accurate insight into humidity and arthritis and I do hope that I made it clearer. Painful no more!