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When Old Injuries Predict the Weather

Changes in pressure can be felt in years-ago sprains

SUNDAY, May 23, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Sometimes you don't need a weather forecaster to tell you the barometric pressure is changing. Just ask someone with an old injury.

Significant drops in air pressure usually are an indication that a storm is approaching, but people with bone or joint problems caused either by prior injuries or arthritis frequently report increases in pain that coincide with such fluctuations.

Doctors have yet to understand why air pressure might trigger such pain, but theories center on nerves surrounding the joints that may be highly sensitive to drops in air pressure, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

While most people do not notice pressure changes, it's been speculated that inflammation or swelling on joints in the body that have sustained injury may be slightly increased with the subtle pressures placed on the body by barometric pressure changes.

Fortunately, the pain is typically subtle enough to respond well to over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen.

Doctors also recommend the use of heat pads when pain from old injuries kicks up, and there are a number of effective medications available to treat arthritic pain.

And unless the pain is severe, experts say it's important to try to stay active when there is joint pain, because sedentary lifestyles weaken muscles and may in fact cause the pain to become worse.

More information

One of the most common types of recurring pain from old injuries is back pain. You can read much more about controlling such pain at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

SOURCE: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
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