Orthopaedic and Spine Center logo
Home > Why Do We Feel Better When the Weather Gets Warmer?

Why Do We Feel Better When the Weather Gets Warmer?

dr carlsonJeffrey R. Carlson, MD, MBA, CPE, FAAOS

The influence of weather on human health has been a subject of interest for centuries, if not millennia. While anecdotal evidence has long suggested a correlation between weather patterns and orthopaedic symptoms, the underlying mechanisms remain a topic of ongoing research, speculation and frankly, voodoo.

Orthopaedic conditions, including arthritis, spine issues, joint pain, and musculoskeletal injuries, affect many of us, significantly impacting our quality of life. My patients frequently report fluctuations in painful symptoms based on weather changes, particularly noting significant improvements during warmer seasons. Is this based on evidence or is it a shift in a patients’ perception of pain and well-being, particularly in the realm of musculoskeletal health?

Let’s explore the potential reasons why patients may experience relief from orthopaedic ailments when the weather gets warmer, considering various physiological, psychological, and environmental factors.

Physiological Factors: Understanding the Orthopaedic Connection

  1. Temperature and Joint Stiffness: Cold temperatures have been associated with increased joint stiffness due to decreased blood flow and synovial fluid viscosity.  Conversely, warmer weather promotes vasodilation and increased blood flow to the joints, thereby reducing stiffness and improving joint mobility.
  2. Atmospheric Pressure and Pain Perception: Changes in barometric pressure, often accompanying shifts in weather, can affect joint pressure and pain perception. Lower barometric pressure, common during colder weather systems, may increase joint pain by allowing tissues to expand slightly, potentially aggravating arthritic conditions. You may remember an elderly aunt or grandparent making a prediction of an approaching storm while rubbing an aching joint.  (You get extra points if they were sitting in a rocking chair while doing so.)  Conversely, warmer weather with higher atmospheric pressure may alleviate joint discomfort by counteracting this effect.
  3. Sunlight and Vitamin D Synthesis: Sunlight exposure is more abundant in warmer months and stimulates the production of vitamin D in the skin. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in bone health, may have anti-inflammatory effects, potentially reduces pain, and promotes musculoskeletal health.
  4. Physical Activity and Outdoor Engagement: Warmer weather often encourages increased outdoor physical activity and engagement in exercise. Regular exercise is essential for maintaining joint health, strengthening muscles, and improving overall physical function, contributing to reduced pain, improved well-being, and the production of endorphins.

Psychological Factors: Understanding the Orthopaedic Connection 

The psychological impact of weather on pain perception cannot be overlooked. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), commonly associated with winter months, can exacerbate pain symptoms, and negatively affect mood. Conversely, warmer weather is often linked to increased outdoor activities, social engagement, and a more positive outlook, all of which can contribute to reduced perception of pain and improved overall well-being.  Who doesn’t just feel good mentally hearing the birds sing and watching the clouds go by on a beautiful, sunny day?

Environmental Factors: Understanding the Orthopaedic Connection

 Environmental factors associated with warmer weather may also play a role in alleviating painful symptoms. For instance, lower humidity levels (except in July and August) during warmer seasons can reduce joint swelling and discomfort, particularly for individuals with arthritis. Additionally, increased daylight hours provide more opportunities for outdoor exercise and physical therapy, which are beneficial for managing musculoskeletal conditions.

In conclusion, enjoy feeling better in the warmer weather. I believe you when you say your symptoms are improved and science does too!

Make An Appointment

Schedule an appointment with our highly skilled, multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic and spine specialists.