Written by Tracey Kellett

Pain specialist physiotherapist Jacqui Clarke says one theory for why changes in the weather make joint pain worse is that low air pressure allows a slight expansion of the joints, which activates stretch receptors so you feel that your joints are stiffer.

People with low-grade inflammation, particularly inflammation in their joints, may feel stiffer or more achey in certain weather conditions. Research hasn’t confirmed a definite cause-and-effect link between weather and joint pain. 

Air pressure is measured with a barometer. It measures the weight of the atmosphere and the air around us with a mercury column. If the air pressure is high, the mercury will rise, and when the air pressure is low, the mercury goes down. 

Meteorologists interpret a high reading on a barometer, indicating high pressure, as good weather. A low reading is often a precursor to bad weather patterns. Some people with joint pain say they know when it will rain as their joints become stiffer or ache. 

With Fibromyalgia, there may or may not be inflammation in the joints, but there’s still controversy over whether Fibromyalgia is entirely a central nervous system disorder or also includes inflammation. So, this theory may not apply to people with Fibromyalgia. 

Dr Toni Golden and Dr Hope Ricciotti from Harvard Women’s Health Watch say another possibility is that you do things in colder, wetter weather that can worsen joint pain or stiffness, such as sitting on the couch watching movies. Or as Tina from our Osteoarthritis Online Support Group says “I’d like to be a bear or hedgehog in cold weather and just hibernate”. We think this is true for a lot of us!

Another reason may be that, since you’re expecting discomfort when the weather shifts, you may notice joint aches more than you would otherwise. To ward off weather-related joint pain, keep moving with regular exercise and stretching. 

If you haven’t already, watch our beginner’s chair yoga class with rheumatologist and yoga teacher, Dr Nikki Tugnet. This is a gentle way to keep moving at home as the weather gets colder. 


What triggers weather-related joint pain? – Harvard Health 

Dr Jacqui Clarke, What is nociplastic pain? webinar with Arthritis NZ, March 2022 

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