One thing that undoubtedly all Boise residents are aware of is how unpredictable the weather can be in Idaho. People who live here are no strangers to experiencing all symptoms of weather within a single day–one minute it could be radiantly shinny and the next it could be blundering down rain that suddenly turns into snow, then sleet, then ice, all within a matter of minutes or hours, just for it to return to a nice, bright and sunny day. Although, to be fair, the weather is usually pretty modest around here on your typical average day, but there are times where even the best of weather reporters are taken by surprise. There are some, however, that seem to be able to predict the weather and any changes based solely on the fact that their body can feel it.
Unfortunately, some people don’t even need to look at a weather report, they are able to feel changes in weather because of the aches and pains in their joints. This pain can even be excruciating to some. There are many doctors who believe there is a connection between changing weather conditions and pain in the back or other joints such as someone’s knees. However, scientists and researchers have so far been unable to pinpoint the underlying cause of why people experience more joint pain with changes in weather. While research is still unclear on why people seem to experience more joint and back pain during changes in weather, there are many explanations that can help explain this widespread phenomena.
Fall is certainly a time worth looking forward to, especially in a state that has as much diverse geography and wildlife as the wonderful and beautiful state of Idaho. Along with hot cocoa and pumpkin spice is the often sudden and sheer drop in temperature that happens when summer transitions to fall and then shortly thereafter winter. Colder weather has been shown to tighten the muscles of the back, which can cause more pain in the back, especially for those who may already experience arthritis or have suffered some sort of traumatic injury in the past.
Stepping outside on a cold winter day will likely cause your body to stiffen. Vasoconstriction, a process where the body narrows blood vessels in the extremities in order to help keep vital organs like the heart and lungs warm, occurs when the body experiences cold temperatures. When our muscles, tendons, and ligaments receive less blood they grow stiffer, this causes more strain to be placed on supporting structures of the body. This stiffness can cause other aches and pains due to the added strain being put on the muscles and supporting structures of the spine.
Another theory on why many people seem to experience back pain and joint pain related to changes in weather has to do with barometric pressure. Barometric is the measurement of the pressure of air, more specifically it is the measurement of the weight of air molecules pushing against an object. Scientifically, when pressure drops, the volume of a gaseous substance expands and inside each joint there is a tiny capsule filled with air. When barometric pressure drops, as it does with changes in weather, this allows tissues in the body to expand, including those tiny pockets of air inside the joints.
Additionally, joints that have worn down or damaged cartilage may also experience more joint pain that flares up around changes in weather because of the exposed nerves inside of the joint. Cartilage is meant to protect and cushion the bones inside of a joint, when this gets worn away, as is often the case with arthritis, these nerves may become more sensitive to changes in barometric pressure or changes in temperature. This is another way that bad weather can lead to increased pain in the back or other joints.
Aside from the fact that changes in temperature or barometric pressure contract or expand various tissues, muscles, or ligaments of the spine and body, the increased number of dark, gloomy days has also been linked to higher rates of back and joint pain that occurs most often around seasonal weather changes. Seasonal depression, also known as seasonal affect disorder or SAD, is a type of depression that is caused by seasonal changes in the weather. For most people, this type of depression occurs around winter time and has often been referred to as the “winter time blues”.
The increased number of dark days with bad weather and low sunlight have been known to contribute to seasonal depression which can help aggravate pain in the back or other parts of the body. Some research suggests that the pain people experience related to the weather is caused by changes in the circadian rhythm, decreased exposure to the sun’s UV rays, and a drop in serotonin levels that naturally occur with the changing of seasons. Not to mention that colder and shorter days make it more difficult to want to get outside or exercise, both of which can lead to more discomfort as physical activity is shown to alleviate symptoms of pain.
Even though the research behind why people experience more back and joint pain during changes in weather is still pretty unclear, there are still many people who can tell you for themselves that this phenomena is very real. For those who do experience pain related to weather changes, chiropractic may be a great way to help treat the symptoms! The highly trained staff here at Thrive Chiropractic have been dealing with back and joint pain for years. We have the expertise necessary to help give you natural and therapeutic treatment options so that you do not have to go through weather changes in so much pain and discomfort.