How Barometric Pressure Changes Affect Health & Pain

Barometric pressure, or air pressure, is the weight of the atmosphere on a particular surface. Air pressure is closely associated with weather and can often be used to predict the forecast. There is no evidence that pressure changes affect a particular health condition, but there have been numerous studies with conflicting results linking barometric pressure changes with pain. The most common types of pain associated with pressure changes include arthritic pain and headaches.

Evidence of Joint Pain Association

John Hopkins Health Alerts reports a study that examines weather and joint pain 2. The study looked for a relationship between weather and joint pain in 151 people who had osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia and lived in the warm climate of Cordoba City, Argentina 3. The study also included 32 people without joint pain living in the same location. According to a journal kept for one year by study participants, the people with arthritic conditions experienced mild pain on days when temperatures were cooler, while those in the smaller control group were not affected by any type of weather. Study participants with rheumatoid arthritis were affected by high humidity and pressure, participants with osteoarthritis were affected by high humidity, and fibromyalgia sufferers were affected by high pressure.

No Evidence of Joint Pain Association

John Hopkins Health Alerts reports on another study that followed 154 older people in another warmer climate, Florida, with osteoarthritis affecting various body parts. Again participants kept a journal indicating pain reactions to barometric pressure, temperature and precipitation. In this case, however, there was no significant association between pain and weather 3.

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Weather

An article published in the "European Journal of Pain" describes the results of several studies conducted to examine the association between weather and pain in rheumatoid arthritis 3. The article explains that studies don't show a concrete relationship between pain and weather conditions like temperature, humidity and air pressure in people with rheumatoid arthritis 3. Though there is some evidence that either weather affects pain in some people more than others or some patients perceive pain differently during certain weather conditions. Therefore, the theory that weather changes might influence a patient's level of pain from rheumatoid arthritis should not be discounted.

Migraines and Weather

According to the National Headache Foundation, while environmental factors such as weather influence migraine headaches in only a minority of migraine sufferers, they do exist nonetheless. Weather changes may cause biochemical changes, and as a result, trigger a migraine in sensitive people. Migraines in certain people can be triggered by extremes in temperature, changes in air pressure, humidity and windy or stormy conditions. If a migraine or headache is triggered by changes in air pressure, symptoms should be closely followed over a period of weeks so the headache is not misdiagnosed.