When I was new in practice, I noticed several patients would have a “bad day” at the same time. At first I wasn’t clear about why — were they all overdoing it? Perhaps a viral infection was going around? Was it my last treatment?

It turns out that the answer is simpler than all that. It’s not just an “old wives tale.” Patients with chronic pain, especially with arthritis or other forms of inflammation, tend to have more pain when a storm is coming. There is some research to support this; one study of 62 rheumatic patients showed definite spikes of pain with weather changes.

For some, there is one specific injury they feel when the weather is bad. For one patient, it was an old gunshot wound. For others, the weather affects their whole body; they ache “all over,” there may be a headache, and even fatigue and mental fogginess.

Most weather-sensitive people notice the pain starts about a day before the storm hits. This lead to the theory that the changing barometric pressure increases the pain. We have all heard the weather forecaster say, “The barometer is falling,” meaning the air pressure is dropping, usually because of an approaching storm. Since a hallmark of inflammation is swelling, the drop in air pressure allows the swollen tissues to expand even more.

The wellness approach to this type of chronic pain and inflammation is to address the problem at its source, or, more commonly, its many sources. For more localized problems, chronic muscle tension can be treated with electrotherapy, deep tissue release and stretching. Joint problems are common with long-term pain and respond best to manipulation. The style of manipulation can be adapted for the patient. Older patients with arthritis and osteoporosis receive gentler treatments.

Anti-inflammatory herbs also are very effective for most patients. Turmeric, Boswellia and willow bark have been used for centuries for chronic pain and inflammation. Unlike anti-inflammatory drugs, which use a chemically altered version of the natural substances in the herbs, they do not damage the stomach, heart and liver with long-term use.

Finally, one of the most effective treatments for chronic pain and inflammation is acupuncture. Patients often ask how the acupuncture works. I think the best explanation is that it jumpstarts the healing process. Chronic pain may have been started by an injury, but a healthy body should be able to heal itself. If the pain persists, it can be seen as a failure of the healing process. It may be blocked because of a poor diet, especially a pro-inflammatory diet; a lack of activity and exercise; or chronic mental and emotional stress. Whatever the reason, acupuncture helps many people heal injuries that have been stuck, failing to heal, for years.

It also is important to treat chronic inflammation and pain from a whole body perspective. Our modern diets are very “pro-inflammatory.” We tend to eat foods with a fatty acid balance that favors inflammation, such as grains, grain-fed meats and vegetable oils. We also eat lots of processed foods: soda, sugars, artificial sweeteners and flavorings, refined cereals and pastries. A healthier diet of whole foods, grass-fed meats, minimal sweets and pastries, and water to drink will improve your body’s natural healing process, and possibly help you to dread weather changes a little less.

Dr. Michael Noonan practices chiropractic, chiropractic acupuncture and other wellness therapies in Old Town. He can be reached at noonanchiropractic@gmail.com.