January 13, 2021 | View PDF
Years ago, before I underwent a double knee replacement, I got quite adept at predicting weather changes. My knees would ache abominably a day or so before we would see the weather turn; whatever that shift happened to be. Depending on how badly my knees hurt prior to this weather downturn, I realized a particular kind of painful knee meant wind. Strong, gusty winds, to be precise. I would know a day in advance that we would experience windy weather, so I made sure I had outdoor odds and ends put away so the wind didn’t carry them into the next county.
I eventually had my knees repaired, one of the best decisions I ever made, incidentally, but my budding career as a top-notch weather forecaster went the way of the homing pigeon. That’s OK, I was quite happy to return to checking the weather outlook on my various weather instruments, rather than consulting the aches and pains in my joints.
However, one of the less-than-joyful aspects of aging seems to be catching up to me. I lived for over six decades without breaking a single bone in my body, but all good things come to an end. Several years ago I cracked a bone in my upper arm. Two winters ago, I broke an ankle. Last winter I had an argument with the bedpost, the bedpost won, and I ended up with a broken toe as a result of this short but painful encounter. To my chagrin, I believe my abilities as a walking barometer are slowly but surely returning. Unfortunately, a lot more body parts have decided to join in this game of betrayal, including joints that I never broke, never abused or mistreated, but they still have decided to rebel.
My curiosity aroused, I decided to investigate how on earth bones, joints, and body parts could respond to changes in the weather. It seems this phenomenon, although well documented and not unusual in the least, does baffle scientists. Barometric pressure, humidity, precipitation, and temperature all conspire to affect joints adversely, according to a medical journal I found on the Internet. If I saw it on the Internet, it must be true, correct? Cold rainy days seem to bother people most, although in my case it doesn’t have to be cold and wet. Just the fact that a shift in weather is on the way is enough to alert my body that it’s party time and time to misbehave once again.
Researchers have inconclusive evidence as to how and why the body reacts with the weather environment. There is no one link anyone has found to explain this. Some medical experts feel these aches are all in our heads, while others feel there is some sort of connection between weather and increased joint pain. Individuals respond differently to humidity, precipitation, and temperature fluctuations, which makes the research more difficult.
I have a friend whose fingers will swell during cold, damp days. A summer rain doesn’t bother her, but the cold wet winter days will cause her hands to swell so badly she cannot hold a pencil. Another friend has the same problem with her feet, only in her case; all wet dreary days bother her, year-round. My problems are more pronounced in spring and fall, when the weather can be erratic, unpredictable, and keep us guessing. In my case, temperature and humidity play a large role in how my joints respond.
People tend to sit when they hurt, which compounds the problem. Sitting in a chair never did anyone any good, if they sit for very long. Sitting can become a very bad habit in a very short time.
When various parts of my body start aching, paining, or causing discomfort, I turn to the solution I use for just about every one of life’s issues that I encounter. I move around, and I exercise. Motion truly does make a difference. When I wake up with a stiff back, or sore foot, or aching toe, twitching calf, or whatever malady appears on that particular morning, I walk through it. It may take awhile, but I keep moving to eliminate the pain, or at least get it down to a more than manageable level. Generally, by mid-morning I’ve forgotten all about that particular pang, until of course I step on a stone and turn an ankle the wrong way, or inadvertently annoy another part of my body, which then feels the need to protest loudly. But I just keep moving, exercising, spending time outside, and occupying myself with various interests that help me forget about most of my minor irritating discomforts.
In short, my upper left arm, left broken ankle, right ankle that I have never abused in any way, big toe, middle toe, middle finger, rib cage on occasion, upper back, lower back, shoulder; the list of body parts that no longer cooperate effortlessly continue to grow. I’m not sure why I am complaining, they don’t all hurt at once, which is a very good thing, but I do resent that they feel the need to twinge and ping and throb and creak and squeak for no apparent reason.
Of course, if I plan it correctly, I can put this recalcitrant body to good use by hiring out my services as a crackerjack weather specialist. Or as my husband says, just join the circus as part of the freak show events. I think I prefer the weather forecasting position.