April showers bring may flowers. They also bring changes in the weather, which can affect your health. Do your joints hurt during an impending storm? Can you predict changes in weather better than the Doppler radar system? Or do you have a sense of well-being and happiness on the first warm sunny day of spring? Even if your friends think this is all in your head, there is a branch of science that believes you! The study of the weather on our health is called biometeorology and the weather can have far more widespread effects than simply causing aching joints.
While still not an exact science, researchers continue to examine how changes in weather affect our physical and emotional health. Understanding how the weather influences us is a daunting task. Are we affected by the change in temperature, or barometric pressure, or wind or cloud cover?
Barometric or air pressure is one factor that changes with an impending storm. Prior to a storm, the air pressure drops, which has been linked to worsening joint pain, headaches and migraines. One theory is that air exerts pressure on our bodies; when this pressure decreases, it allows the joints and sinuses to swell – leading to pain. The only problem with this theory is that the changes in barometric pressure are similar to taking an elevator from the ground level to the top floor of a tall building. Since we don’t see large groups of arthritis sufferers avoiding elevators, it must be something else.
Researchers at the American Public Health Organization point to the psychological aspect of weather change: stormy days seem gloomier thus impacting our perception of pain. There is no definitive answer linking stormy weather to increased pain. Nevertheless, many people dealing with conditions like fibromyalgia, arthritis and post-concussion syndrome anecdotally swear that they are affected.
If you feel that your condition is affected by weather, there are some steps you can take. Keep a diary or journal of your symptoms in relation to the weather. If you are affected, you may need to adjust your medications and activity (with your doctor’s input, of course). And remember that into everyone’s life a little rain may fall, but a rainbow follows the rain. Take care of yourselves and each other.