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Can Rain Bring Pain?

Does barometric pressure hold sway over backaches and headaches?

SUNDAY, Feb. 23, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Many people claim they can predict the weather by how much pain they feel.

However, scientists are at a loss to explain exactly how, or even if, changing weather patterns can really affect human health, or if the damp, dreary weather is simply affecting people's spirits and just making them feel their pain more acutely.

Changes in barometric pressure, either up or down, can trigger migraines, according to the Migraine Association of Canada, but no clear link has been found for people suffering from back pain, though some report that they feel worse when a storm is approaching.

Barometric pressure measures the weight of the air. Water vapor, caused by humidity or rain, causes the density of the air (and the barometric pressure) to decrease.

There are several theories on how the change in pressure could affect your health. One is that when barometric pressure falls, there is less pressure from the atmosphere on your body, which lets already inflamed joints swell. Another theory, this one from the Mayo Clinic, suggests barometric pressure might affect the amount of fluid that lubricates the joints.

Whatever the cause, if you're feeling back pain, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends you rest your back for one day to two days by lying on your back on the floor with a pillow under your knees. After a day or two, however, it's important to get up and walk around, the AAFP adds.

More information

To learn more about barometric pressure and arthritis pain, visit the Mayo Clinic.

SOURCES: Migraine Association of Canada; Mayo Clinic; American Academy of Family Physicians
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