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Rheumatic Stiffness/humidity

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  • Rheumatic Stiffness/humidity

    I am posting below my original message and the replies.

    I have not included that of Mark W Swanepoel
    which was sent out to the whole list

    These responses are certainly interesting and it would be good if
    someone knows where to find the American mentioned by Neil Tuttle

    I am adding these comments.

    Perhaps predictably there has been no major breakthrough.

    In the last 150 years science has revealed tremendous information about
    magnetic, electric, gravitational fields etc and about atomic radiation
    which were not dreamt of before.

    Some alternative practitioners (quacks) also speak with great certainty
    about forces and fields not known to science. This is surely usually
    utter clap trap, and may be useful in impressing gullible, worried and
    scientifically ignorant clientele.

    However it would be arrogant to suppose that we now know all and that
    perhaps there is an effect in this subject which, at present, defies
    rational explanation.

    It is apparent however than many of the subscribers to this list know a
    lot about joints, there are experts on physiotherapy and perhaps also
    rheumatology. This is why I am seeking to use this forum

    In the U.K. it is commonplace for people who suffer from what loosely
    may be called rheumatic conditions to be aware that in wet weather their
    symptoms are worse. This is I think an almost universal observation.

    But what is the cause of this ?

    A medical scientist I greatly respected thought that because of the low
    atmospheric pressure associated with rain that tiny bubbles formed in
    the joint tissues. It was according to him like a minor attack of the
    divers bends (caisson disease). This sounded at first plausible. However
    aircraft cabins are not fully pressurised, and the change after take off
    is more rapid than is usual with fluctuations of the weather. I have not
    heard of people complaining about rheumatic pains on aircraft.

    An alternative position is that with high humidity less water will be
    lost from the lungs, and by insensible perspiration from the skin. There
    will be some increase in the osmotic pressure of the blood. However
    this would surely be quite small. I wonder if anyone knows of any data
    about fluctuations of plasma osmotic pressure according to the weather ?

    What else can be the cause ? Any suggestions ?

    There is a literature about air ionisation. What I have found difficult
    to follow and perhaps questionable because there seems to be no very
    satisfactory way of getting measurements. Rain drops will, I suppose,
    often have an electrical charge. So what ?

    People find rainy weather in Northern Europe depressing. I am loathe
    however to consider that the effects is purely psychological.

    If the high humidity somehow is the cause, what happens in subtropical
    and tropical countries in the wet season ? I have never been to Florida
    but imagine that at certain times of the year it is hot and humid. Is
    this a problem for people with joint problems ? Or is it only the
    combination of wet and cold which is the trigger in temperate
    climates.(even though most houses now have central heating

    Finally if dampness is the main problem, whatever the mechanism, has
    anyone tried using a dehumidifier in their house ?
    Brad Wright

    Excellent post. Please summarize any informative replies. I wouldn't be
    surprised if, in fact, the "mini-bends" explanation turns out to be on
    right track.

    Brad Wright

    Are you looking into Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which people
    get due to lack of sunlight? This affects people in Northern Europe
    winter days) and in the pacific NW of the US (grey, rainy days,
    especially in
    winter). I believe this is a sunlight thing - doctors prescribe high
    lights as the treatment for the depression which can result.

    Alternately, are you discussing people telling when it is going to rain
    storm due to how their knees are feeling?

    "Dr. Chris Kirtley (Kwok Kei Chi)"

    No answers, I'm afraid, but full marks for asking the question!

    Dr. Chris Kirtley MD PhD
    Dept. of Rehabilitation Sciences
    The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
    Hong Kong
    Special Administrative Region of The People's Republic of China
    -------------------- (Sun G. Chung).

    I do agree with you that the wet weather worsens the pain of the
    patients. Some of the arthritic people in Korea can forecast the weather
    more correctly than the weather news. As a physiatrist, I think the
    why they suffer more pain by the wet weather may be somewhat explained
    the effect of cold temperature which may decrease the viscosity of joint
    fluid and extensibility of soft tissue. I wonder why the coldness of
    may not affect the joint less than the coldness of the wet weather and
    may be an evidence that is againt my idea. But for the coldness of the
    winter, the patients may be acclimatized to the rather long durationed
    change of temperature.

    The key point of my reply is to read the summary of replies from you.


    Sun G. Chung M.D. Ph.D.
    "Neil Tuttle NHS"
    Griffith University

    As regards weather effects on symptoms there was an interesting
    article I recall reading in 1972 or 73 (perhaps your search needs to
    go back that far) using hospital rooms with airlocks controlling
    multiple parameters. The conclusions as I recall was that it was
    rapid change in at least two parameters (humidity, temperature,
    barometric pressure, ?ion concentration, and ? rate of air exchange)
    that resulted in the subgroup who were weather sensitive being
    effected. I can't recall anything more about the reference except
    that it was an American study (?University of Michigan) and it was

    neil Tuttle
    ---------------------------------- (Mary Ann Antonelli MD)

    Your question re: humidity and joint pain was forwarded to me; you
    may have have many (?better) answers by now!
    As a rheumatologist, I hear this complaint/observation so
    frequently that it is undoubetedly a true phenomonen and not a
    mis-attribution. The only related and oft-quoted (I don't know if I even
    have the reference!) study suggested that joint and bone pain (like
    fractures) symptoms are related to low atmospheric pressure, but could
    be reproduced in a controlled atmospheric pressure chamber.
    Predicting storms/low pressure systems is excellent by (some
    my arthritis patients, but the mechanism may yet be unkown ! The
    issue may be different from the "atmospheric pressure" phenomenon. I do
    know that there is a thriving arthritis practice in the desert of
    and that there were different type nor intensity of patient complaints
    I practiced in Hawaii, where the humidity is high constantly. There were
    little arthritis complaints in American Samoa (12 degree south of the
    equator, continually 95% relative humidity) where I practiced for a
    Is this a cool-with-high humidity phenomenon?

    Mary Ann S. Antonelli MD FACP
    Associate Professor of Medicine/Rheumatology
    ICM Course Coordinator
    West Virginia University School of Medicine
    PO Box 9156 - RCB Health Sciences Center
    Morgantown, WV 26506
    304 293-2804; FAX 304 293-8824

    Email -

    Phone (0)131.664.3046

    64, Liberton Drive,
    EH16 6NW

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