Whether Weather Affects Arthritis

Medical Author: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Medical Editor: Catherine B. Driver, MD

Doctors who specialize in the treatment of patients with arthritis (myself included) generally agree that many patients experience a worsening of joint symptoms with changes in the weather. Moreover, folklore holds that the weather can affect arthritis as emphasized by sayings like "feeling under the weather." We know, for example, that weather clearly influences many health conditions. Examples of this relationship include pollens in the air and asthma or sinus infection, sun rays and skin burning or skin cancer, cold weather and heart attacks, and gloomy, dark weather and depression. We also know that heat packs or hot showers can relax the muscles around the joints and relieve stiffness and pain for some. Conversely, ice packs can ease the inflammation in the joints themselves.