weather the weather

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Lately the weather
has been so much better
and consequently so have I .          

-Reliant K

Many of my patients claim they can tell when bad weather is coming. They feel it in their joints, and I believe them. Why does bad weather seem to cause people to turn into meteorologists?

After reading some reviews like this semi-scientific look into meteorology, I imagine that grandmas knee couldn't do much worse than the local accuweather team, especially if grandma reported the forecast with charm and charisma.

"Yeah, it's going to rain tomorrow. Or maybe snow. About zero to ten inches."

Wintery mix? Is "wintery" a word? Spell check says no.

Anyway, one reasonable explanation for the achy and stiff joints has to do with barometric pressure.
Every moving joint in the body is encapsulated by a tough connective tissue called the...joint capsule (imagine that). Joint capsules add a little stability and secrete synovial fluid. Synovial fluid delivers nutrients to joint structures and helps to lubricate the spin, glide, and roll that takes place between cartilage and bone.

There's good evidence that synovial fluid responds to changes in barometric pressure, just like any other type of fluid. When the barometric pressure drops, the pressure of the synovial fluid also drops, which may cause fluid retention within and around the joint capsule. 

Under normal circumstances, a little change in the pressure and fluid content of the joints is no big deal. You don't hear many teenagers going around forecasting rainfall based on how high they can elevate their shoulders. But degenerative and inflamed joints are highly sensitive to such changes in pressure.

Change is the key word here. There has been no clear scientific connection between specific joint symptoms and barometric pressure. If anything, it's simply the change in barometric pressure, altitude, humidity, and other conditions that are thought to lead to symptoms.

In other words, moving to Florida is not going to fix arthritis, and a bad back should be able to tell when good as well as bad weather is coming. Everyone hurts more on a gray February day in the mid-Atlantic. A week in Aruba may be "medically necessary," indeed, but your synovial fluid won't be thanking you for all the change.

And if your physical therapist asks if his plan of care has left you moving better, worse, or no different, whatever you do, don't put the blame on you. Blame it on the rain. Yeah, yeah.

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