Does Weather Affect Arthritis? Best Climate for Arthritis in the USA

Fact checked by Megan Soliman MD, MSc
Board-certified physician at Saba University School of Medicine

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 4 adults in the US has arthritis and experiences intense joint pain. While arthritis triggers depend on the individual, climate factors such as temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure can all contribute to your aches and pains.

Keep reading to find out ​​why your joints hurt when it rains and what’s the best weather for arthritis pain.

How does weather affect arthritis?

Many people with arthritis may notice their joint pain getting worse before and during the rain, or they may become more limber in the summer, when it’s warm and dry.

Of course, everyone is different, and some people with arthritis can be more sensitive to weather changes than others. According to a 2014 study, 67 percent of people with osteoarthritis consider themselves to be weather-sensitive and experience worse joint pain in changing weather.

Although medical science may not yet know exactly what weather conditions affect joint pain, sudden shifts in temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity levels, usually associated with bad weather, seem to make arthritis pain worse.

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You can also experience more intense pain on rainy days because you may not be as active as you normally are. Regular exercise is crucial for keeping your joints mobile if you have arthritis, but when the weather is bad, you are more likely to stay indoors and not move around as much, which can make your pain worse.

A change in mood and general fatigue in rainy weather can also affect your pain perception, so you may feel more acute discomfort than usual.

Is hot or cold weather better for arthritis?

You may experience arthritis flare-ups at any time throughout the year. Keeping track of your symptoms can help you to notice what weather conditions affect your pain, for better or worse.

An older woman experiencing arthritis pain due to the weather

The general consensus is that the cold and wet weather makes joint pain worse. Sudden temperature and barometric pressure changes can cause the soft tissue to swell and put more pressure on already sensitive joints. Cold temperature can also cause the synovial fluid in your joints to thicken, making them stiffer. So, for many people with arthritis, warm summer days can bring much-needed relief.

Barometric pressure and arthritis

People with arthritis are often more sensitive to the change in barometric pressure. There is a drop in air pressure before cold, rainy weather, which is why you may notice more discomfort than usual before a storm.

But what is it about barometric pressure that causes joint pain? When the air pressure is low, your muscles and the soft tissue around your joints can expand and press on the inflamed joints, leading to an increase in pain. So, if you’re wondering why your knee starts to hurt when it rains, it may be the drop in barometric pressure.

Humidity and arthritis

According to doctors, their patients with arthritis often report more intense joint pain when it rains. Although it can increase pressure in the blood vessels and irritate the nerve endings in inflamed joints, high humidity alone is unlikely to affect arthritis pain.

Other factors, such as air temperature and pressure usually come into play as well.

For example, high humidity and heat can lead to dehydration. When your body lacks water, it has a hard time keeping your joint well lubricated, so you may feel stiff.

What is the arthritis weather index?

Arthritis pain can be triggered by sudden changes in weather. Even if you live in an arthritis-friendly climate, rapid and significant fluctuations in temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure can make you feel sharper pain for longer.

The arthritis weather index calculates the risks of having weather-related pain based on these three parameters. Keeping track of the arthritis weather index can help you prepare for your next arthritis flare-up and ease the pain quicker.

Download WeatherWell to predict how upcoming conditions will affect your joint and muscle pain!

States with the best climate for arthritis in the USA

As we already discussed, cold, damp weather is the worst for arthritis. It can cause soft tissue to expand and trigger joint pain. So when it comes to the best climate for arthritis, states with warm and dry weather are a safe bet for those with joint pain.

But if you’re looking to move, there are other factors to consider, such as:

  • Access to healthcare, including specialized arthritis therapy
  • Cost of medical care
  • Opportunities to stay active and adopt healthy lifestyle habits

The Rheumatic Disease Report Card shows how different states perform based on these requirements to help you choose the best place to live with arthritis.

Let’s talk through some of the options.

1. Arizona

A warm climate with low humidity makes Arizona ideal for people with arthritis. It is also the sunniest state in the US, and the sunlight is crucial for vitamin D production, which helps to keep bones and joints healthy. It’s also easy to stay active there with plenty of hiking options to choose from.

A woman hiking to improve arthritis symptoms in warm climate

As for access to healthcare, the state is home to the Arizona Arthritis Center at the University of Arizona Medical Center, so you finding professional help shouldn’t be a problem.

2. California

California scores high on the lifestyle factor. It has many amazing opportunities to stay active for the outdoorsy types and nature lovers. With consistently warm weather and a B rating on access to healthcare, it’s one of the best places to live with arthritis in the US. But California has one pretty significant drawback — the cost of living is very high.

3. Colorado

Colorado is a fantastic choice for those looking to stay active year-round. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails to choose from, and beautiful scenery to go with it, too. The dry climate and access to specialized medical care also make it a great option for people with arthritis. The plains and southern regions that have less snow than the mountains are best.

4. Virginia

With a high rating on the lifestyle and medical care scale, Virginia is definitely one to consider.

The climate is milder here than in the northern states and humidity is lower compared to more southern states.

And it has lots to explore too — from quiet beaches to spectacular mountain ranges. So finding things to do and staying active in the great outdoors should be easy.

Final thoughts

Since the weather can trigger arthritis symptoms, finding the best climate for arthritis in the USA may be the first thing on your mind if you’re looking to reduce your arthritis pain. In general, the states with consistently warm weather and low humidity will work well for you in terms of reducing weather-related arthritis flares. But there are other factors you need to look into as well if you consider a move. As you may need medical help to manage your arthritis symptoms and flare-ups, access and affordability of good-quality healthcare is a must.

Keep track of any changes in your symptoms in different weather conditions — WeatherWell can help you with that! — and discuss a suitable treatment plan with your healthcare provider. Staying active is also crucial for reducing joint pain, so look for places that offer a lot of opportunities to exercise all year round. Remember to drink enough water, and make sure to stretch and warm up before any exercise. Moving to an area with proper healthcare and the right climate for arthritis can make a huge difference in your quality of life.

January 25, 2023