How Weather Impacts Knee Pain

Why do joints hurt more when the weather changes?

How Weather Impacts Knee Pain

People often ask their doctor if there is any truth or reason behind why their joints hurt right before and when the weather changes. The idea that you can ‘feel it in your bones’ has been researched. While there is little ‘hard’ data to prove that weather affects your joints, there are some commonly held beliefs and theories about the potential reasons why, when the weather turns, your joints suffer.

There are many theories about why this happens and even some research published about it in the journal Pain. Many clinicians agree that changes in barometric pressure, or air pressure, can potentially cause an increase in joint pain.

One theory is that the tissues that surround your knee function like a balloon and when the pressure from the air increases, those tissues cannot expand. However, the reverse is true as well. When the air pressure decreases, the tissues have room to expand and put pressure on your joint, causing pain.

A good example of how this works is a trip on an airplane. Did you ever notice that your feet swell when you are on a long airplane flight, even though the airplane cabin is pressurized? However, they don’t swell in the same way when you are seated at home or behind your desk for the same amount of time. This is because there is less atmospheric pressure at higher altitudes putting pressure on your tissues, so the tissues can expand and put pressure on your joints.

There are some practical tips that can help minimize your reaction to changes in the weather. Don’t be shy to explain your feelings to your doctor as well.

  • Stay warm – extra layers of clothing, turn up the thermostat a few degrees, use a hot water bottle or heating pad on your joints.
  • Control swelling – sometimes a knee band will help decrease fluid build-up and lessen pressure on your joint.
  • Exercise – stretching exercises can loosen your muscles and relieve stiffness.
  • Stay positive – weather changes are temporary so focus on keeping warm and staying relaxed.
  • If necessary, sometimes an increase in pain medication is advised.


Posted in: Knee