A new study suggests that a direct link exists between chronic pain and humid, windy days with low atmospheric pressure. So the next time someone tells you that they can feel bad weather in their bones, they may well be right.
Weather has been thought to affect symptoms in patients with arthritis since the time of Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician. Today, nearly three-quarters of people living with arthritis believe their pain is affected by the weather.
Now researchers at the University of Manchester, in the United Kingdom, have confirmed this popular wisdom, following a six month study of more than 13,000 people from all 124 of the UK postcode areas.The participants were mainly people with arthritis, though some had other chronic pain-related conditions, such as fibromyalgia, migraine, or neuropathy.
The researchers collected the data with a smartphone app that they had developed specifically for the study. Each participant used the app to report their pain levels daily, while the app recorded the weather in their area using the phone’s GPS.
The analysis showed that on damp and windy days with low pressure, the chances of experiencing more pain was 20 percent, compared to an average day. In other words, if your chances of a painful day on an average weather day were 5 in 100, they would increase to 6 in 100 on a damp and windy day.
The data suggested no connection between actual rainfall and pain. Likewise, the researchers found no relationship between pain and temperature alone. However, it did appear that temperature can make pain caused by muggy, turbulent weather worse: The most painful days for participants proved to be humid, windy days that were also cold.
The study’s findings could lead to meteorologists giving pain forecasts alongside air quality projections, which could help people with chronic pain plan their activities, completing harder tasks on days predicted to have lower levels of pain, said one researcher.
Knowing how the weather impacts on pain can enable arthritis patients to accept that the pain is out of their control and try to make the best of it..