Best Climate for Arthritis

The link between weather and joint pain

It isn’t entirely clear why weather affects people with arthritis, but the link between weather and arthritic pain has been extensively studied. People with arthritis may experience pain in places where temperature changes are more extreme and in damp climates. They also experience pain in response to climate factors like humidity, air pressure, and wind speed. Temperature and barometric pressure have also been noted as contributing factors to joint pain. Understanding how different weather patterns affect pain can help people with arthritis find the best climate for them.

woman suffering neck ache in winter

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Temperature

Temperature is a core weather element that has been shown to cause pain in people with arthritis. One study assessed daily values for dew point, precipitation, and relative humidity, in addition to temperature and barometric pressure. It found that patients with knee arthritis experienced increased pain with every 10-degree drop in temperature. This suggests that temperature is a leading contributor to pain.

Some researchers say that the link between low temperature and arthritis pain is due to changes in synovial fluid, a natural lubricant in the body that keeps joints mobile. Low temperature can make this fluid more viscous, or thick, causing joints to stiffen and making it painful to move and flex the joints.

Humidity

Humidity is another weather factor that has been shown to influence pain levels in people with arthritis. A study on 222 people with hip osteoarthritis demonstrated that humidity changes can worsen hip discomfort. Specifically, humidity changes exacerbated both hip pain and disability.

This study showed that cold, damp conditions lead to elevated pain levels in people with arthritis, while dry, hot conditions tend to cause less discomfort. However, there isn't clear evidence explaining why humidity worsens arthritic pain.

Barometric Pressure

While temperature and humidity are often blamed for arthritis pain, research suggests that weather-related joint discomfort may be more closely related to barometric pressure, or air pressure, which measures the weight of air molecules pressing down objects on Earth. 

Some research suggests that air pressure changes cause bones, tendons, muscles, and scar tissues to expand and contract. Since these body parts respond to weather at different rates, it can cause tension and pulling within the joint, resulting in pain, especially when attempting to move.

Weather-related joint pain may also be related to psychological factors since poor weather can negatively impact a person’s mood. This is important to consider when choosing a place to live based on potential symptoms.

Other Factors

Aside from weather, there are other factors that determine what makes a place better or worse for people with arthritis to live. The Rheumatic Disease Report Card from the American College of Rheumatology is a helpful tool that shows the best places to live for people with rheumatoid arthritis. 

These evaluations are based on a number of factors, including:

  • Access to expert care
  • Affordability of medical care
  • Ability to engage in healthy lifestyle habits

The map in the report card shows that all states could stand to improve access to affordable medical care and health lifestyles. While Maryland is the only state that received an A, most states received a B or C rating. Oklahoma and Alabama were rated with an D, making them the worst states to live in for people with arthritis.

Best Places to Live With Arthritis

Based on the Rheumatic Disease Report Card, the best places to live with arthritis in the United States include:

  • California: With a B rating on the access to care map, minimal humidity, and consistently warm weather, Southern California is a great place to live comfortably with rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hawaii: People with arthritis may also thrive in Hawaii’s less humid regions, such as the Kona side of the Big Island. Hawaii gets ample sun and warmth and has high-quality care access
  • Virginia: Virginia has a B on the care rating scale. The weather there is more mild than that in the northern states, but not as humid as that in other southern states, making it a great place for people with arthritis to live
  • Colorado: The dry climate of Colorado makes it suitable for people with arthritis. Southern and plains regions, which get less snow than the mountains, are best. Colorado also has great expert care access
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6 Sources
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