Rain, Pain, Go Away – Does Wet Weather Make Ours Aches Worse?

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Friday, 09 September 2016

According to a new study, that old wives’ tale that the rain can make our aches and pains feel worse actually has some truth to it.

The preliminary findings from a University of Manchester study have uncovered a connection between the weather and changes in pain levels for people with chronic health conditions.

The researchers studied more than 9,000 people who suffer with chronic pain such as migraines, arthritis and back problems. The participants logged their symptoms daily using an app on their smartphones.

The app monitored the weather conditions hourly and helped scientists to match the weather to people’s levels of pain.

So far, the researchers have discovered that 100 participants from three cities (Norwich, London and Leeds) reported that as the days got sunnier between February and June 2016, the amount of severe pain they experienced dropped.

During a period of wet weather and when there were fewer hours of sunlight in June, the level of pain rose again.

The project is set to last for 18 months and is titled Cloudy with a Chance of Pain. Currently, it’s at the halfway point, but the initial findings are to be reported at Swansea’s British Science Festival this week.

Leading the research is Professor Will Dixon, who treats arthritis patients at Salford Royal Hospital.

Professor Dixon said there have been anecdotal claims that people with chronic conditions suffer more during periods of bad weather and a lot of his patients say they can predict the weather based on how they feel.

Despite this, Professor Dixon said there hasn’t really been much research in this area, although around 28 million people in Britain suffer from some kind of chronic pain. He said the team is encouraged by the results so far and he feels there is definitely a potential link.

According to Professor Dixon, it makes sense in terms of physiology that air pressure affecting weather would also influence pain, especially in the case of arthritis.

Although Professor Dixon is happy with the progress of the study so far, he does hope to find more participants and that the findings will help people with chronic conditions to establish better pain management.

He said that when there is a proven link, people will gain the confidence to plan their activities with the weather in mind. As well as this, he said that understanding how the weather affects pain will allow researchers in the medical field to look into new treatments and interventions. He concluded that to figure out the details about how the weather is linked to pain, the researchers need as many participants as possible to track their symptoms on their smartphones.