“There’s a storm coming. I can feel it in my knees!”
The idea that weather causes increased pain is so common that many may consider it a known fact. Researchers in the past, however, couldn’t get conclusive results – that is, until a group in the United Kingdom did a study they called “Cloudy with a Chance of Pain.”
Why did these scientists find a link between weather and chronic pain when others didn’t? The study lasted 15 months, which means it spanned several seasons. The research team collected five million reports from more than 13,000 people.
Two things made this possible. Smartphone technology easily linked participants’ location and pain reports to the nearest weather reporting station, and the charity Versus Arthritis funded the study after they saw the the idea featured on the BBC’s Trust Me, I’m a Doctor show.
The research team found that higher humidity was most associated with more pain, followed by lower pressure and stronger wind. Pain was 20 percent more likely on a day with all three when compared to an “average” day.
Strong wind often signals a significant change in air pressure, so a big transition in weather may trigger pain symptoms.
Temperature by itself did not have a firm connection to pain levels. Some people might feel their pain is more noteworthy on colder days, but the researchers believe that it just so happens that the temperature is colder as a result of the broader weather pattern that is causing pain.
Dr. David Schultz, a meteorologist on the research team, says there aren’t any plans to do the same study in the United States. He does speculate that the results would probably be similar here.
However, Schultz adds, “I wouldn’t necessarily think that people in the Mediterranean region, or Mexico, or Central America would necessarily experience the same weather–pain relationship.”
Those who deal with chronic pain can’t change the weather, but they can see what’s coming and plan accordingly.