Humid, windy days with low pressure make pain worse in those with long-term health conditions, according to new research.
People with conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine and neuropathic pain are 20% more likely to suffer pain in such weather, reveals a study carried out by scientists from the University of Manchester, UK.
“This would mean that, 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,” said study author Will Dixon, professor of Digital Epidemiology, in a statement.
Relatively high humidity is the most important factor in pain levels, according to data gathered from more than 13,000 people across the UK during 2016. Low pressure and higher wind speed are also linked to increased pain, but to a lesser extent.
Participants recorded their symptoms on a smartphone app, and scientists used GPS data to record weather conditions on specific days.
The study, called “Cloudy with a Chance of Pain,” was funded by charity Versus Arthritis.
Dry days were least likely to be painful, according to the statement, while there was no recorded association between pain and rainfall or temperature.
Researchers also considered the explanation that weather influences mood, and mood can influence pain, but found that the association between weather and pain remained even when accounting for mood.
Participant Carolyn Gamble, who has a form of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, said daily pain persists for many people even if they follow medical advice.
“Knowing how the weather impacts on our pain can enable us to accept that the pain is out of our control, it is not something we have done, or could have done differently in our own self-management,” she said.
Stephen Simpson, director of research at Versus Arthritis, said the UK healthcare system isn’t able to effectively help those with arthritis.
“Supporting effective ways of self-managing pain can make all the difference for people with arthritis, helping them to get and stay in work, to be full members of the community and simply to belong,” he said.
Dixon said the study results mean it could be possible to develop a pain forecast.
“This would allow people who suffer from chronic pain to plan their activities, completing harder tasks on days predicted to have lower levels of pain,” he said.
“The dataset will also provide information to scientists interested in understanding the mechanisms of pain, which could ultimately open the door to new treatments.”
This isn’t the first study on the relation between chronic pain and the weather that has used technology to help find a correlation. An Internet-based study, published in the American Journal of Medicine in 2007, concluded that changes in barometric pressure and ambient temperature are independently associated with osteoarthritis knee-pain severity.
However that study only collected data for three months from 200 people.