Can damp, cold conditions make osteoarthritis worse?
Q) Since moving into a damp council flat my osteoarthritis has worsened considerably, to the point where I'm in severe pain, particularly in my lower spine. Has there been any research into this painful and debilitating condition with regard to the effects of the damp and cold? My consultant has told me that pain relating to osteoarthritis can be worsened by changes in barometric pressure but I'm not sure what this means.
Maureen Hinton, Hindhead, Surrey (Spring 2010)
A) You hear of people saying that old Uncle Harry could tell if the weather was going to change by the pain in his knees. And patients often come in and tell me that their arthritis pain is worse when the weather is cold and damp. Your consultant is referring to this – a fall in air pressure (barometric pressure) often happens before bad weather arrives (that's why our Victorian ancestors kept a large barometer in the hall, tapping it before they ventured out to see if the pressure was rising or falling). People who live in cold, damp places say the same thing but I’m not sure it's for the same reason. The dampness where you live is nothing to do with the outside temperature and pressure. It's more likely that the poor living conditions make you miserable and that adds to the pain from your arthritis.