How can PT help stop your joint pain when it rains? 7 helpful treatments

Joint pain is any discomfort, soreness or stiffness in any part of your body where two or more bones meet. It can be caused by many factors, including injury, inflammation, infection or other underlying condition. It can range from mild to severe, and may come and go or be chronic. Millions of people deal with joint pain each year. Conditions commonly associated with joint pain include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis and tendinitis. Joint pain is a widespread problem that can have a big impact on your quality of life or ability to do your daily activities. 


Why do I have joint pain when it rains?


Are you one of the people who insist they can predict the weather based on their joint pain? Research hasn’t confirmed a link between weather and joint pain, but it may be due to factors like:


  • Barometric pressure changes — When it rains, the barometric pressure drops. This drop can affect the fluid in your joints, causing them to expand. When the fluid expands, it can cause increased pressure and discomfort. People with sensitive joints may experience increased pain during atmospheric changes.


  • Humidity — Rainy weather usually comes with changes in humidity and temperatures. These changes can make inflammation in joints worse. Increased inflammation can lead to heightened pain sensitivity. This can make people more susceptible to pain on rainy days.


  • Temperature changes — Cold and damp weather can cause joints to become stiff and less flexible. This can make joints more likely to be painful. Changes in temperature can also affect nerve endings, which can increase pain perception. People with preexisting conditions may be more likely to experience joint pain with temperature fluctuations.


  • Physical activity — You may be less likely to do physical activities when it’s raining. A decrease in activity leading to more sedentary behaviors can lead to stiff and achy joints. On the flip side, you may be inspired to stay overly active when you’re cooped up inside because of the rain. Overexertion can also cause existing joint issues to be painful. 


  • Psychological factors — Rainy weather can cause you to become more stressed, anxious or depressed, which can, in turn, influence your pain perception or even make symptoms worse. Psychological distress can also leave you with tense muscles, which can further irritate joints.


Why does my shoulder hurt when it rains?


Some people experience widespread joint pain when it rains. Others may experience pain in a localized joint like the shoulder joint. If you’re plagued with shoulder pain during rainy weather and wonder why, it could be due to:


  • Rotator cuff sensitivity — The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that can be prone to injury and inflammation. Changes in barometric pressure or temperature with rainy weather can make this existing condition worse. 


  • Arthritic conditions Osteoarthritis or other arthritic conditions can affect the shoulder joint. They can flare up during rainy weather due to atmospheric pressure changes or humidity. 


  • Muscle tension — Muscle tension in the neck and upper back can radiate to the shoulders. Poor posture and decreased activity levels during rainy weather can make muscle pain worse and affect your shoulder joint. 


  • Bursitis — The bursae are small fluid-filled sacs that help cushion and lubricate joints. When they become inflamed, it can cause pain and discomfort, especially during rainy weather. Changes in atmospheric pressure can make bursitis symptoms worse. 


  • Tendinitis — The tendons are fibrous tissue that connect muscles to bones and can cause pain and tenderness when they become inflamed. Rainy weather can make tendinitis worse due to the changes in barometric pressure and temperature.


How to help joint pain when it rains


If you’re prone to joint pain when it rains, you’ll be on the lookout for effective ways to help relieve your pain. Ways to help alleviate rainy day joint pain can include:


  • Staying active — It may be tempting to curl up and snooze the rainy day away. However, doing some gentle exercises and movements can help keep your joints flexible and reduce stiffness. Even on rainy days, you can improve your mobility and reduce your joint pain by exercising inside, walking in the mall, or doing yoga. 


  • Hot and cold therapy — Applying a heating pad to the affected joint can help relax muscles, boost circulation and alleviate pain. It can help loosen stiff joints and provide you with temporary pain relief. Using a cold pack on affected joints can help reduce inflammation, numb pain and decrease swelling to provide you with temporary pain relief. It’s important never to place a cold pack directly on the skin. Always use a barrier to help prevent frostbite or nerve damage. 


  • Medications — Over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, or topical creams and ointments can help manage joint pain and inflammation on rainy days. Pain relievers can help reduce inflammation and provide relief from discomfort. Topical treatments with ingredients like menthol or capsaicin can help alleviate discomfort by numbing the area and reducing pain sensations. It’s important to consult your health care provider before starting any new medications. 


  • Physical therapy — A physical therapist can do a thorough evaluation to determine if there is an underlying cause of your joint pain that’s triggered by rainy days. They can create a personalized treatment plan to address your specific joint pain needs. PT can be an effective option to help you manage your joint pain and improve your quality of life. 


Physical therapy for joint pain when it rains


Physical therapy can be a beneficial treatment to help alleviate joint pain when it rains. Beneficial techniques in your treatment can include:


  • CuppingCupping is a technique that can help relieve joint pain and stiffness associated with rainy weather. It can help circulation to the affected area, reduce inflammation and promote healing. Your physical therapist will place special cups onto your skin to create a gentle suction. As the cups do their magic, you can feel the tension melt away from the muscles around your joints. It can leave you feeling lighter and more mobile, even on rainy days.


  • Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM)IASTM involves your physical therapist using specially designed tools to apply pressure to and manipulate your soft tissue. This helps break up scar tissue, improve circulation, and reduce pain and inflammation in the joints. With each precise stroke over the affected area, the tools help loosen tight muscles. This helps restore your flexibility and range of motion. 


  • Therapeutic exercises — In the capable hands of your physical therapist, they can guide you through a series of tailored exercises. These exercises are intended to be like building blocks. They can help strengthen the muscles around your joints. You may be able to slowly see improved flexibility and overall joint function. With each stretch and bend, you can feel your pain and discomfort fade away. You may also have improved strength and stability. 


  • Manual therapy Manual therapy is a toolbox full of different techniques that can help improve joint mobility, reduce pain and help restore your normal function. Your physical therapist can tailor techniques to coax your joints back into alignment. They’ll use their hands to guide you through gentle stretches, joint mobilizations and subtle soft tissue manipulations. Their healing hands can help ease tension and restore balance to your body. 


  • Electrical stimulation Electrical stimulation therapy uses low-level electrical currents to stimulate nerves and muscles around the joint affected by rainy days. This gentle stimulation can reduce pain, improve circulation and promote your body’s natural healing. As your muscles relax and spasms melt away, you can feel relief in your achy joints, leaving you more comfortable than you were. 


  • Myofascial releaseMyofascial release techniques can help release the tightness in your muscles and promote flexibility in your stiff joints. This can help reduce the discomfort that can be associated with rainy weather. Your physical therapist will use their hands to apply gentle pressure to your fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds your muscles and joints. With each targeted touch, they can help release knots of tension to help restore smooth movement and flexibility. 


  • Aquatic therapy — Aquatic therapy involves doing exercises and movements in a heated pool to use the buoyancy and resistance of water to reduce stress on your joints. The warm water will provide a gentle resistance against your muscles, allowing you to strengthen and tone them without strain. The warmth of the water can also help soothe tense muscles, further boosting the effectiveness of aquatic therapy.  

Whatcom PT can help you find relief from joint pain during rainy weather


Joint pain when it rains can have a large impact on your overall well-being. Using proven PT strategies and treatments, our team at Whatcom PT can help you effectively manage and alleviate joint pain. We offer compassionate and personalized treatment plans to help you regain control over your joint health and improve your quality of life, rain or shine. 


Call us or request an appointment today for help with your rainy day joint pain.