How Weather Affects Pain
The findings linking weather and pain come from a University of Manchester study that recruited people throughout the UK suffering from arthritis, migraines, and other types of chronic pain to record their daily symptoms on their cell phones. At the same time, the researchers were collecting information on the weather at each participant’s location. The year-long study included more than 13,000 people from every UK postal code. Analysis of the results showed that pain was worse on humid days and to a lesser extent with low pressure and higher wind speed. The study showed that temperature didn’t appear to affect pain one way or the other, although cold, damp and windy days seemed to worsen pain. No link was seen between rain and pain. Study leader Will Dixon, a professor of digital epidemiology suggested that with the new knowledge “it may be possible to develop a pain forecast…(that) would allow people who suffer from chronic pain to plan their activities…on days predicted to have lower levels of pain.”
My take? The belief that weather changes can trigger aches and pains goes back at least to Hippocrates in 400 B.C., but we haven’t had a lot of medical research to prove – or disprove – claims of weather-related pain and illness. Earlier research in the U.S. concluded that the alteration in barometric pressure preceding weather changes seems to be what sets off joint pain. This may stem from heightened pressure within joints leading to small changes in tendons, ligaments, muscles and bones that can trigger nerves that send pain signals. While some individuals seem to be more sensitive to weather changes, at present there’s no scientific consensus on the connection – or lack of one – between weather and pain.
Will Dixon et al, “How the weather affects the pain of citizen scientists using a smartphone app.” Npj Digital Medicine, October 24, 2019,
More from this week’s bulletin:
- How Not To Break A Hip
- Can Blue Light Shorten Life?
- A Fall Recipe For This Week: Ciambotta (Italian Stew)
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