The Barometric pressure is the measure of the pressure of the air exerted onto the earth. The weight of this air or its pressure on us is measured by a barometer.
Generally speaking, low pressure weather systems begin with changes to the barometric pressure. They usually bring winds accompanied by a rapid air pressure drop as the front arrives. The center of the front continues with a rapid air pressure reduction and increased humidity, followed by an equally rapid rise in air pressure and decreased humidity after the front passes.
So low pressure weather systems, especially rapid moving ones, bring extreme changes in temperature, pressure, humidity, along with gusty winds. Add several storms back to back and you have what I call inflammatory weather and all the triggers needed to bring out some of your body’s physical weak links.
In terms of the human body, barometric pressure changes can exacerbate or trigger bulging discs, joints, old chronic injuries like sprained knees and ankles, back pain, radiating nerve conditions, prior surgeries, even migraines and cluster headaches.
A low barometric pressure system affects the body by having less gravitational forces exerted on it; it feels as if the air is definitely heavier.
When the barometric pressure is low and the humidity is high, this extra weight impedes our mobility and irritates our joints. Rapid and repeated changes in the air pressure prevent our bodies from proper repairing and recovering from our workouts. So it's a tough time to workout when you have a stormy humid afternoon or evening... I would avoid those days if possible
Patients with bulging discs, our spine’s water filled shock absorbers, are especially vulnerable to these rapid changes in barometric pressure. Even the fluid capsules surrounding the joints of our hands and knees, as well as those in our spine, become inflamed with low barometric pressure, many times causing almost intolerable levels of pain.
These rapidly changing weather patterns, or what I refer to as the ‘yo yo effect’, many times are similar to repetitive stress injuries that are significantly reticent to improve until the erratic weather pattern changes.
The best weather to work out in is High Pressure with low Humidity this is why places like the desert southwest and Southern California offer great training places for athletes.
Keep an eye on the weather and when it starts to go yo-yo it's time to ease up a bit on your routine or you'll risk injury and even slow joint recovery.
Biometeorology! A nice post confirming the science of what many sufferers of the conditions you list have always suspected--frequent changes in barometric pressure can bring pain (although this is *not* yet universally accepted in the medical community).
I'd just like to touch on a couple of things, though, Rob. I'm sure you didn't literally mean that the body comes under "less gravitational force" when the air pressure drops. Gravity (as distinct from an object's attractive force, which is "gravitation") is a constant force, and is independent of air pressure. Air pressure is a function of mass per unit volume, as with any gas occupying a space. Pressure falls and rises, as we know, due to lifting and subsidence with cyclones and anticyclones, respectively. The synovial fluids that bathe our joints seem to react to the drop in absolute pressure; pain results when those fluids fall slightly "out of balance" with the pressure and compensate by expanding (inflammation), thus irritating achy joints.
So actually, athletes and those with chronic pain do sense the change in the "weight" of the air, with that weight being, (as for all mass on earth), gravity (a constant force) times the mass of the air surrounding the body and its fluids, which *does* change w/changing pressure. So when the barometric pressure is low, it's literally *less* weight our joints feel, rather than *extra* weight. On top of this, everything depends on the strength of the particular low pressure cylcone or trough in question.
Also, the central tissue of our vertebral discs, or the "nucleus pulposus," is not water; it's actually more of a jellylike substance. If it were water....I'd imagine the reaction to lower pressure would be....*ouch*...exCRUCiating!! :)
As for the desert southwest and SoCal for training, I'm honestly not 100% sure, but I would posit that it's the climate being far more constant, or persistent, (i.e. hot surface and upper air heat ridges for more of the time throughout the year) than it is over most of the rest of the nation.
Rob..thanks for posting entries on such a wide array meteorological topics. There's so much more than just the daily forecast!