Cloudy with a Chance of Pain
According to a new study by The University of Manchester, approximately 75% of people with long-term pain believe weather affects pain. It is a long-held belief that cold weather worsens or aggravates pain. As a result, researchers set out to explain this weather-pain relationship. They hope to pinpoint which weather condition affects pain the most. The 15-month study, called Cloudy with a Chance of Pain, tracked over 13,000 UK residents living with chronic pain. Examples include conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, and neuropathic pain. Using a smartphone app participants record daily pain intensity while the smartphone’s GPS collects local weather data.
New Study Backs Chronic Pain Sufferers Who Say Weather Worsens Affects Pain
The Cloudy with a Chance of Pain study collected 5.1 million pain reports for analysis. Researchers determined that days with higher humidity, lower pressure, and stronger winds are more likely associated with high pain days. The most significant contribution was from relative humidity. The effect of weather on pain is not fully explained by its day-to-day effect on mood or physical activity. This is encouraging to three-quarters of people living with long-term pain as it is consistent with their beliefs. Knowing that certain weather conditions might increase your pain allows you to plan activities around it and take greater control of your life.
This is not the first study to observe pain as it correlates to weather. What makes this study different is its size and duration. Previous studies were commonly one month or less with fewer than 100 participants, resulting in inconclusive scientific evidence. Smartphones provide the opportunity to collect a large dataset of patients frequently recording pain symptoms during a variety of weather conditions. The increasing uptake of smartphones offers new and significant opportunities for health research.
Our large national smartphone study has successfully supported the collection of daily symptoms and high-quality weather data, allowing examination of the relationship between weather and pain. The analysis has demonstrated significant relationships between relative humidity, pressure, wind speed and pain, with correlations remaining even when accounting for mood and physical activity.
While this research is encouraging it still does not explain why or how weather impacts pain. A deeper understanding of the relationship between weather and pain will provide a better understanding of the mechanisms for pain. Most importantly, allowing for the development of new and more effective interventions for those who suffer from pain.
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