Why do muscles and joints ache when the weather changes, especially after an injury or surgery?

Why do muscles and joints ache when the weather changes, especially after an injury or surgery?
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Have you ever noticed that your joints hurt more when a storm is coming? Many of us grew up hearing elders say things like, “Bad weather is coming in, I can feel it in my knee.”

While there is not a complete scientific understanding of “weather sensitivity”, there are a couple of theories why it happens—both relating to the pressure within our body.

Barometric Pressure

One theory is a change in barometric pressure, which occurs with weather changes.

Weather can affect the pressure in the air around us, and this change in pressure can cause our joints to ache or feel stiff, especially in people who have arthritis, injuries, or other joint-related conditions.

But it’s not the weather itself that causes pain—it’s our body’s response to it.

When the barometric pressure drops, such as during a storm or weather front, the tissues in and around the joints may expand. This can put pressure on nerves, leading to increased pain and discomfort. For individuals with conditions such as arthritis, this can lead to flare-ups of pain and stiffness.

Conversely, when the barometric pressure rises, the tissues in and around the joints may contract, which can also lead to pain and discomfort. This can be especially problematic for individuals who have scar tissue or weakened joints from injuries or surgeries.

Injuries or surgeries can cause scar tissue and/or weakened joints, which can make the affected area more sensitive to changes in pressure, temperature, and humidity.

In some people, changes in pressure can cause headaches or even trigger migraines.

Temperature and humidity

Another theory is that humidity can affect joint pain, especially in people with certain medical conditions such as arthritis or obesity.

High temperatures and high levels of humidity (water vapor in the air) can cause our body to retain more water, which can lead to swelling in the joints and affect the viscosity of the joint fluid, making it more difficult for joints to move smoothly.

This can lead to stiffness and pain.

In conclusion

Our joints have a lot of nerves and sensory receptors that are very sensitive to changes in pressure and temperature.

People who have had injuries or surgeries are typically more sensitive to changes in the weather due to the damage or trauma that has occurred to their bodies.

The best advice for risk-free management of pain is ice and rest. And please speak with your doctor for an ongoing pain management plan.

It’s worth noting that not everyone is equally affected by changes in barometric pressure, temperature, and humidity, and the degree of sensitivity can vary widely from person to person depending on their individual physiology and health status. However, for those who are sensitive to these changes, monitoring the weather and taking steps to manage pain, such as through medication, physical therapy, or massage therapy may be helpful.

*Please note, I am not a doctor and this information should not replace the advice of medical professionals.*