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Study Finds Link Between Weather, Joint Pain

BOSTON (CBS) - You feel an ache in your shoulder. Could that mean snow is coming? How about discomfort in your knees? A sign of rain? These types of thoughts were once thought of as silly, but now research is saying there might be something behind the messages our bodies are sending.

A number of people in Brookline's Coolidge Corner told us they thought they could predict the weather based on their aches and pains. One woman said her knees hurt as cold was bearing down. Another said she could sense rain in the forecast by the way her hands felt.

Dr. Fotios Koumpouras, a rheumatologist, said he gets many calls from patients who say, "Hey Doc, I know it's going to rain because my joints are aching, my knees are aching." Studies previously showed no link between joint pain and the forecast, but now a recent study from Europe found evidence that there is a connection. "There was a definite association between temperature, and in one case, barometric pressure and joint pain," said Dr. Koumpouras.

The theory is that as barometric pressure falls, like it does during a storm, the pressure inside joints changes too. That impacts the nerve endings around those joints. "The ligaments contain these very specialized receptors, and they are stretch receptors. These stretch receptors, particularly in joints that may have arthritis, could be hypersensitive. And small changes in pressure, atmospheric pressure, may in fact allow these receptors to fire," explained Dr. Koumpouras.

The most likely targets for pain are weight bearing joints like the hips, lower back, and knees. Finger pain can also flare up. There are some simple solutions that can provide varying degrees of relief. One is to consider a dehumidifier to smooth out any spikes in dampness. Also make sure the seals around all doors and windows are tight, to keep out any drafts.

You can try taking an anti-inflammatory before a storm bears down. A hot compress can also provide some relief.

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