Is Bad Weather Associated With Increased Pain?
Monday, April 12, 2021
Everyone I see with chronic pain says it hurts more in winter. Studies show that between 62% and 97% of people with musculoskeletal conditions believe that the weather influences their pain. Are you one of those people?
Musculoskeletal conditions with chronic pain include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, low-back pain, and nontraumatic joint disorders. If yes, you might have confirmation bias: A strong belief in the weather-pain relationship may mean you perceive higher pain levels under certain weather conditions which you cannot be blinded to, like rain.
There are approximately 43 existing studies on the association between chronic musculoskeletal pain and weather conditions (temperature, atmospheric pressure, relative humidity, precipitation, etc). A recent review of these studies determined that while some stated current evidence does not support an association between weather and pain, others do show an association. In other words, there is no scientific consensus to support a direct link between weather and chronic musculoskeletal pain.
There is some evidence that scar tissue and/or nerve fibres may respond differently to certain weather conditions like damp weather or low pressure.
More significantly, the pain during winter may be less directly related to weather patterns and more about our change of lifestyle: changes in exposure to Vitamin D, less physical activity, poorer sleep and eating, and mood.
So what can you do? For sure studies show that regular physical activity may be as beneficial as medications for both your Physical and Mental Health. We’ve already written articles about the positive impact of Physiotherapy and exercise on mental health issues, joint pain, chronic pain, and knee osteoarthritis.
Also, I am working with Macquarie University on a study called the WalkBack Trial, which is looking at how a simple walking program helps to reduce the incidence, and severity, of low back pain. If you have had an episode of lower back pain in the last 6 months, then you may be eligible to join in (it’s FREE)! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org via email, or go to www.walkbacktrial.com for more info and to get started.
Find the full Narrative Review: Beukenhorst et al. Are weather conditions associated with chronic musculoskeletal pain? Review of results and methodologies. Pain Journal Online, 161 (April 2020) 668-683.