The Worst Places to Live With Arthritis – States to Avoid

The link between climate and arthritis pain levels, while not fully understood, is well-documented. Many seniors will even move to areas with better weather to reduce their pain. So, if you are contemplating a move, here are the worst places to live with arthritis so you know what to avoid!

Senior man with arthritis with the desert in the background
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It’s estimated that around 25 percent of the population deals with some form of arthritis. Some of us fight battles every day just to tie our shoes or pick up the paper. A life with arthritis is never going to be an easy one, but there are plenty of things we can do to make it less difficult. For example, we can get the grandkids to show a little respect and pick up the paper for us. But that’s only a start.

A major thing that we can do to improve a life with arthritis is to pack our bags and move to another state. That might sound a little drastic, but it can make a huge difference. Let’s just assume you’re already planning to move soon. What sort of qualities or features should you look for in a new location that will impact the severity of your arthritis?

Living Conditions That Affect Arthritis

Every state is not created equal when it comes to arthritis. There are two major factors that you need to consider. First, the average climate or weather conditions in a state are going to be very important. Second, the availability and quality of medical care are going to be very important. Let’s look a little closer at these factors.

Weather Conditions

By now, you’ve probably realized your body is a precise weather-predicting instrument. Your aching joints can detect an incoming storm that even the Channel 3 weather report is unaware exists. Some younger people believe this is all nonsense, but there are actually strong scientific links between joint pain and weather.

The secret isn’t that rain or snow itself causes inflammation in arthritis sufferers. Instead, the connection lies with barometric pressure. This is also known as atmospheric pressure, which is the force that the atmosphere places on a surface at any moment. When a storm begins to develop in an area there is a noted decrease in the barometric pressure.

senior woman showing her hands with arthritic knuckles

A reduction in pressure might sound like a good thing for aching joints but it’s actually the opposite. As the barometric pressure drops, the tissues inside the body are allowed to expand. The expanding tissues then place increased pressure on the nearby nerves and cause us to experience more pain. A slight decrease in pressure can result in noticeable pain in a senior and it’s even worse if they suffer from arthritis.

What does all of this mean? It means that an ideal location to live with arthritis is one that experiences calm weather conditions with fewer storms and thus fewer drops in pressure.

Calm weather provides a secondary benefit as well. It makes it easier for you to get outside and take a walk or exercise more often. And as I’m sure your doctor has told you a million times, getting a few extra minutes of activity each day is a tremendous relief for long-term arthritis pain.

Healthcare Possibilities

The second quality to consider when moving is the quantity and quality of the healthcare available. The desert might have great barometric pressure conditions, but if you’re hundreds of miles from the nearest doctor, then it’s going to do more harm than good. The best states will have many qualified rheumatologists available and they will have a higher percentage of residents with health insurance.

In 2018, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) released a report that rated various states according to similar factors. One of their primary grading factors was the availability of rheumatologists in the state. According to their report, Maryland is the top state in the country because their number of rheumatologists is above average and a large portion of the residents have health insurance.

closeup of hands deformed by rheumatoid arthritis

What Are Some of the Worst Places to Live With Arthritis?

But we’re not here just to tell you how great Maryland is. Instead, we want to let you know which states you should probably avoid. The following two states are the worst either because they have poor healthcare options or their weather conditions are just not suited to aching joints.

Georgia

We like to think of the South as all sunshine and smiles, but that’s not the case when it comes to Georgia. To its residents, this state is known for its sudden and unpredictable shifts in weather. And with those shifts in weather come shifts in barometric pressure. Wednesday morning may be a great time for a walk, but Wednesday afternoon could be filled with rain, wind, and flooding.

On the subject of weather, Georgia also has the unfortunate advantage of being a frequent hurricane target. It’s not quite as bad as Florida, but the hurricanes that do make contact with the coastline send rain and storms throughout the rest of the state.

The only thing more unpredictable than the weather in Georgia is the healthcare. There is an unfavorable ratio of patients to rheumatologists and many arthritis sufferers are unable to get the health insurance they need. We suggest avoiding this state entirely if you want to avoid frequent joint pain and sub-par healthcare.

Sorry Georgia! But you will always be on our minds!

Oklahoma

This is generally considered one of the worst states to live if you suffer from any type of joint pain. The humid, near-tropical conditions during the summer feel nice on the surface but painful on the joints. It’s not accompanied by the frequent shifts in barometric pressure typically responsible for joint pain, but nearly 50 percent of residents claim the humidity increases their pain regularly.

The direct link between humidity and arthritis pain isn’t fully understood. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, the humidity isn’t the most significant problem in Oklahoma. The state has very few qualified rheumatologists compared to a high percentage of patients who suffer from arthritis. The cost of healthcare in the state is also well above the average.

woman rubbing her wrist that hurts due to arthritic pain

Louisiana

Louisiana is known for its humid weather, which can cause a lot of problems for arthritis sufferers. The humidity is especially intense during the summer. Many people with arthritis experience more severe symptoms during this time of year.

In addition to this, Louisiana is one of the rainiest states in the country. The state sees high rainfall throughout the year, even during the winter. Being in Louisiana also means having to deal with hurricane season, which can make it challenging for people with arthritis to get the care they need. Louisiana is a great state to visit, but if you have arthritis, you may not want to live there.

Massachusetts

New England is known for its chilly winters, but this part of the country also sees a lot of rainfall. Both the cold weather conditions and all the rain can cause problems with people with arthritis. Although Connecticut and Rhode Island also see a lot of rainfall, Massachusetts is one of the country’s rainiest states.

In a state like Massachusetts, people with arthritis can struggle all year round. The freezing temperatures in the winter can lead to intense pain, and the damp weather in the spring and summer can also be a challenge. Although there are excellent doctors in this state, it can still be a difficult place to live in.

Mississippi

If you’re based in Mississippi, you might not have access to the doctors you want to see. Furthermore, you’ll have to deal with some incredibly intense humidity. Mississippi is known for being a damp state.

The weather in this state tends to be hot and humid, which doesn’t make things easy for people with arthritis. Although temperatures are slightly cooler in the winter, Mississippi gets a lot of rain during this season. If you have arthritis, and you’re looking for a place to settle down, this is one state you’ll want to skip.

So, Is the Answer “Maryland Or Bust”?

Have we mentioned how great Maryland is? But even if you don’t want to move that far north, we certainly advise avoiding Georgia and Oklahoma. A few other states to avoid include Florida, Alabama, and Texas for similar reasons. And no matter where you move, make sure to bring someone to pick up that paper for you because the small things still make a big difference.

Avatar for Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®
About Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS® 413 Articles
Assistive Technology Professional, Custom Wheelchair Specialist, Medical Equipment Guru, Dad and Grandfather
I am a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not working as a custom wheelchair specialist at a regional home medical equipment company, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's. Learn More

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