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nimzov
29th August 2006, 10:40 AM
Hello.

How does ambient humidity influence arthritis pain ?

Is it true that high humidity causes discomfort to arthritis patients ? Some people say that even a rainy day or two and they feel miserable, how so ?

From my understanding, the relative humidity is a measure of the dampness of the air. And air is not in direct contact with the joints.

nimzo

patnray
29th August 2006, 11:04 AM
Does ambient humidity influence arthritis pain? Evidence please.

Why don't these people experience pain in a steamy shower? I believe it's a case of selective perception...

Dava
29th August 2006, 11:19 AM
I don't have arthritis, but I do frequently get headaches during storms or other days with high air pressure. Perhaps they're confusing causality, and they think it's the humidity of the storm when it's actually the air pressure. Just a hypothesis.

jmercer
29th August 2006, 12:09 PM
I do have arthritus; in my left knee from multiple injuries and operations. I can testify to the fact that colder weather increases my arthritic discomfort, while warmer weather improves it.

Arthritus is a form of inflammation of the joint; arthritic joints literally feel warmer than normal ones. Inflamed areas are warmer due to locally increased blood flow. Cold causes a reduction in blood flow to the extremities - I assume that this is the root cause for my increased discomfort during colder weather.

Regarding rain, etc. - No, I've not noticed any appreciable effects from changing weather unless temperature change is involved.

Warm showers, hot tubs and the like actually reduce the pain experienced in my knee; perhaps a change to cold rain and cold air may trigger a similar reaction in people with worse arthritus conditions than I have.

patnray
29th August 2006, 12:14 PM
I don't have arthritis, but I do frequently get headaches during storms or other days with high air pressure. Perhaps they're confusing causality, and they think it's the humidity of the storm when it's actually the air pressure. Just a hypothesis.
Aren't storms usually associated with low air pressure? Do you get headaches while riding in airplanes?

I believe there have been studies that found no link between humidity, air pressure, etc. and symptoms among people who claimed to experience such differences. Unfortunately I don't have any links. But it is the usual remember the hits and forget the misses kind of thing.

OK, jmercer, I can buy the hot/cold air connection since heat or cold may lessen or worsen symptoms of some conditions.

andyandy
29th August 2006, 01:11 PM
This is an interesting article about the OP from the arthritis research campaign website (http://www.arc.org.uk/about_arth/infosheets/6258/6258.htm)

However good or bad the weather might be, it will not change the long-term outcome of your rheumatism for better or for worse. Neither does the weather cause any rheumatic diseases. Most of these occur in all climates.

Feelings
Nevertheless the weather does make a difference to how you feel. Sadly, most of us can expect that bits of our anatomy somewhere are degenerating. Cold, greyness and damp may lower our resistance and aggravate pains in these areas, while warmth and sunshine have the opposite effect. Many people with arthritis feel very strongly that changes in the weather affect the level of pain they experience in their joints, particularly cold and damp, but so far research has not been able to demonstrate any association. However, the degree to which an individual generally feels the weather affects their arthritis is a major factor for them.

There has been a lot of research into this area, but the problem is that climate and weather conditions are made up of many components. Temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind, rainfall, cloudiness, storms and sunshine all play their part. Furthermore, the state of rheumatic diseases themselves often changes from day to day for no apparent reason. So variations in the weather and alterations in someone's condition could be coincidental.

Temperature
When it is cold most arthritis sufferers feel worse; their pain threshold is lowered. Warmth (as anyone who takes hot baths knows) relaxes mental and muscle tension and eases most pains. This is one reason why physiotherapists use special heat lamps. Similarly, people who work in a warm environment complain less of pain than those out in the cold, even though these individuals might be going through the same rheumatic changes.

For example, a survey of a group of coal miners revealed that those working in a wet seam lost more time because of pain in their backs and hips than those working in dry seams. This occurred despite the fact that the rheumatic changes charted by x-ray were similar.

In another survey, foundry employees who worked in a consistently warm environment were found to suffer less than others, even though many of them had arthritic spines. It is possible that the warm, dry atmosphere of the foundry acted as a form of physiotherapy in reducing the pain. Nowadays air-conditioning may aggravate arthritic aches and pains; a cold jet of air playing on a shoulder or back can cause pains and muscle aches.

Barometric pressure
Some sufferers say their level of pain seems to act rather like the weather! Whilst they are unlikely to compete with the BBC weathermen, research does indicate that barometric pressures influence people's symptoms.

Some years ago Dr Joseph Hollander of Philadelphia made a series of studies on a group of arthritic patients. The test took place in a tall, windowless building with a controlled climate, where nobody could see what the weather was like outside. In a significant number of cases patients could detect a rise in humidity with a fall in barometric pressure from unpleasant feelings in their joints.

Studies of other factors in weather do not help a great deal, and people who have different forms of arthritis do not respond the same way to changes in the weather.

snip

Quite small changes in the temperature of the tissues actually affected by arthritis may affect the pain threshold. This could convert a mild ache into a positive pain. Here both the macro- and micro-climates may play a part.

Dava
29th August 2006, 01:12 PM
Aren't storms usually associated with low air pressure? Do you get headaches while riding in airplanes?

I believe there have been studies that found no link between humidity, air pressure, etc. and symptoms among people who claimed to experience such differences. Unfortunately I don't have any links. But it is the usual remember the hits and forget the misses kind of thing.


I live in Tornado Alley, so air pressure fluctuates quite a bit. A lot of times, air pressure goes up right before a storm, and then drops once the storm arrives. I should have been more specific--it's during that build-up to the storm that I often get headaches.

And yes, now that you mention it, I do get headaches during flight. It usually starts with neck pressure (around C1 and C2) and then progresses to a headache.

fishbait
29th August 2006, 01:39 PM
From New York Times: (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9B03E0D81239F930A35757C0A960958260) Dr. Tversky and a colleague, Dr. Donald A. Redelmeier, an internist at the University of Toronto, conducted their own study, which is published in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They recruited 18 patients with arthritis and followed them for 15 months, assessing pain as reported by the patients; joint tenderness, as determined by a doctor, and the patients' functional status, the ability to get along in daily life, as measured by a standard test. They also obtained local weather reports on temperature, barometric pressure and humidity. But the researchers found no correlation between the patients' symptoms and the weather, no matter what aspect of weather they looked at.The best explanation, Dr. Tversky said, is that the human brain is designed to look for patterns, even if, statistically, patterns do not exist. Dr. Tversky said he could understand why people might attribute arthritis pain to the weather. "If your joints ache, you look for a reason." he said. "If it's not rain, it's barometric pressure. If it's not barometric pressure, it's humidity." Dr. Redelmeier said that "the longer you live with arthritis, if anything the greater your degree of confidence" that weather influences your p

ernon
29th August 2006, 02:30 PM
Barometric pressure
Some sufferers say their level of pain seems to act rather like the weather! Whilst they are unlikely to compete with the BBC weathermen, research does indicate that barometric pressures influence people's symptoms.

Some years ago Dr Joseph Hollander of Philadelphia made a series of studies on a group of arthritic patients. The test took place in a tall, windowless building with a controlled climate, where nobody could see what the weather was like outside. In a significant number of cases patients could detect a rise in humidity with a fall in barometric pressure from unpleasant feelings in their joints.

Studies of other factors in weather do not help a great deal, and people who have different forms of arthritis do not respond the same way to changes in the weather.

I have two different forms of arthritis in several joints. One is pretty severe and has been operated on twice. It seems to me that changes in barometric pressure cause me pain; not the pressure being high or low, but changing from one state to the other. Once the pressure stabilizes my pain decreases.

I have not noticed any correlation between changes in humidity and my pain. And temperature does not seem to be a factor either, other than a frozen joint is going to hurt regardless of arthritic condition. :)