How does barometric pressure affect my joints?

Health

(KIAH) — Are those aches and pains you’re feeling the result of a change in the weather? For some, fluctuations in temperature or atmospheric pressure could be the source of unexpected discomfort.

Dr. Niral Patel, an urgent care physician with MedExpress in Houston, spoke with KIAH on how changes in weather might impact the body for different people.

What is barometric pressure?

Barometric pressure, or atmospheric pressure, is the weight of the earth’s atmosphere above us. Pressure varies on a day-to-day basis and by location. Pressure can change with temperature, as well. Warm air is lighter and less dense than cold air.

High pressure is associated with relatively nice and quiet weather, or sinking air. Low pressure is associated with rising air, clouds and sometimes even rain or storms.

A chart shows the expected impact of Houston’s atmospheric pressure on “aches and pains” this week. (KIAH)

What impact does weather, particularly atmospheric or low barometric pressure, have on a person’s body?

More pressure means there’s more weight pushing down on our joints and tissue. This limits the amount of expansion, or swelling of the joints, that can occur. When pressure lessens, even by a small amount, some people can feel the expansion within their bodies — sometimes causing pain or achiness in nerves and joints.

Patel says it all depends on bodily factors.

“Usually the elderly, they will feel more pain because their tissues are less dense compared to the younger folks,” Patel said.

The doctor also explained that changes in pressure can trigger migraines, even by someone doing something as simple as moving from a temperature/pressure-regulated home into lower-pressure outdoor areas.

The way to tell the difference between seasonal allergies (which can include sinus pressure) and pressure pain is that allergies will likely include other symptoms like runny nose, watery eyes and sneezing, while pressure changes aren’t likely to produce these results, Patel says.

To take care of these symptoms, Patel suggests sufferers stay hydrated and try getting regular physical exercise. For people with serious migraines, “If you can stay indoors, in a temperature-regulated home, that’s ideal,” he says.

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