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Spring, Summer, Winter or Fall…weather changes can cause joint pain!

It is not just a cold weather problem…

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” said Mark Twain. Just ask 93% of the arthritis sufferers who believe that the weather affects their pain level. History tells us that Benjamin Franklin, Leonardo da Vinci, and Christopher Columbus also felt this way about the weather.

Patients at our clinic have been particularly sensitive to joint pain on cold, damp days, especially during the past few weeks. In my clinical practice of orthopedic and sports physical therapy, an informal survey found that 95 out of 100 patients (95%) with arthritis reported increased pain with weather changes. While most people report that the coldness and dampness seem to irritate their joints, they also report more pain with weather changes in the summer. There is a reasonable explanation…

Joints in the body have a lining called synovium that secretes a lubricating fluid called synovial fluid. In joints with arthritis, there is an overproduction of synovial fluid. In theory, when the barometric pressure changes, so to will the pressure inside your joints, especially if it is already overfull with extra fluid from arthritis. This added pressure stimulates the nerve endings in the joint to produce inflammation and pain.

Despite this overwhelming response from patients, scientific studies vary in their support of this claim. According to the Mayo Clinic, in 1961, a famous arthritis doctor (rheumatologist), built a climate chamber and discovered that when high humidity was combined with low barometric pressure, patients reported increased joint pain and stiffness. A recent study found that changes in barometric pressure and cooler temperatures are associated with joint pain. However, other studies have found increased joint pain with high barometric pressure in both warm and cold weather while another study found pain with low pressure.

What does this mean? It means that patients with arthritis consistently report pain with weather changes but science has not found an accurate method to consistently support these claims. Some of these inconsistencies may be attributed to the fact that there are differences in sensitivity among individuals. For example, some patients have symptoms before the weather changes, while others notice symptoms during or after the weather changes. Still yet, some report more pain in colder conditions while others notice more pain in warmer weather. It appears that changes in the weather, such as a high to a low or warm dry to cold damp and vice versa is the culprit when it comes to irritating arthritis in a joint.

If I have arthritis, should you move to Arizona? Yes and no! Yes, the warm and dry climate of Arizona will probably make you feel better overall. However, it will not cure the degenerative changes in your joints and you may still have pain when CHANGES in the weather occur. This is proven to be true by the fact that there are many very busy rheumatologists in Arizona!

In conclusion, it is safe to say that there is some evidence to support the claim that most patients with arthritis have increased symptoms of joint pain and stiffness with CHANGES in the weather:

Therefore, each patient must be individually evaluated by their physician to determine the extent of their arthritis and its relationship to the changes in the weather. While the cause of their increased symptoms with changes in the weather may not be completely understood, each patient must determine the adjustments in their lifestyle and/or medications according to the particular weather patterns that affect their problem most.

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.     

NEXT SUNDAY IN THE PAPER AND EVERY MONDAY'S BLOG – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”  

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM. For all of Dr. Mackarey's articles, visit our exercise forum!

Part II of II

It is difficult to take care of a senior with many needs. The demands of care-giving can create situations in which abuse is more likely to occur. Even though many non-professional care-givers consider their role to be satisfying and enriching, the responsibilities can be extremely stressful. This stress can escalate, especially as the elder’s condition deteriorates, and can lead to mental and physical health problems causing caregivers to burn out, become impatient, and unable to restrain their frustration.

Among caregivers, significant risk factors for elder abuse are:

Even caregivers in institutional settings can experience stress at levels that can lead to elder abuse. Nursing home staff may be prone to elder abuse if they lack training, have too many responsibilities, are unsuited for care-giving, or work under poor conditions.

Several factors concerning the elders themselves, while they do not excuse abuse, influence whether they are at greater risk for abuse:

In many cases, elder abuse, though real, is unintentional. Caregivers may be pushed beyond their capabilities or psychological resources.

You can protect yourself from elder abuse by:

Caregivers can prevent from becoming elder abusers by following some simple suggestions:

Elder abuse help-lines offer help for caregivers as well. Call a helpline if you think there is a possibility that you might cross the line into elder abuse. (REPORT ELDER ABUSE: PA Dept of Aging 24 Hotline 1-800-490-8505)

If you suspect elder abuse, report it. Look at the elder’s medications to see if the amount left in the bottle is consistent with the dosing schedule and date of the prescription. Watch for possible financial abuse by asking the elder if you may scan financial documents for unauthorized transactions. Call and visit the elderly person as often as you can. Offer to stay with the elder so that the caregiver can have a break.  

Many seniors do not report abuse. Many are ashamed, feel responsible or fear retaliation from the abuser. Others believe that if they turn on their abusers, no one else will take care of them. If you are an elder who is being abused, neglected, or exploited, tell at least one person: your doctor, a friend, or a family member whom you can trust. Every state has at least one toll-free elder abuse hotline or helpline for reporting elder abuse in the home, in the community, or in nursing homes and other long term care facilities. You can also call Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116. For those over the age of 60, help is available through local Area Agencies on Aging (AAA).

Part I of II

One in seven senior citizens nationwide falls victim to some type of elder abuse, usually at the hands of a family member. The abuse can be financial, physical, or psychological and the consequences can be deadly. Statistics suggest that abused and exploited seniors die sooner than other seniors their age. Despite such devastating consequences, most elder abuse goes unreported because of fear or lack of knowledge. If you have been abused, you may be afraid of what might happen if you tell someone. If you suspect that an elderly neighbor or friend is being abused, you may not know where to turn for assistance.

(REPORT ELDER ABUSE: PA Dept of Aging 24 Hotline 1-800-490-8505)

Elder abuse is the use of power or control to affect the well-being and status of an older individual. The World Health Organization considers elder abuse as a single, or repeated act, or lack of appropriate action, occurring within any relationship where there is an expectation of trust which causes harm or distress to an older person. The core feature of this definition focuses on harm which includes mistreatment by people the older person knows or with whom they have a relationship, such as spouse, partner, or family member, a friend or neighbor, or people that the older person relies on for services.

There are several types of elder abuse that are universally recognized:

Each different type of elder abuse has specific signs. Below are some indicators that you need to be aware of and may recognize when involved personally or professionally with an elderly person:

Read “Health & Exercise Forum” next week to discuss the risk factors and interventions for elder abuse.

Read “Health and Exercise Forum” by Dr. Paul J. Mackarey every Monday in The Scranton Times-Tribune.

Read all of Dr. Mackarey's articles at:

Dr. Mackarey is a doctor of orthopedic and sports physical therapy with offices in downtown Scranton. He is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.