Melbourne: Weather plays no part in the symptoms associated with either back pain or osteoarthritis, a new study has found, countering the belief that aches can be triggered by changes in the weather, including temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction and precipitation.
Almost 1,000 people with lower back pain and around 350 with knee osteoarthritis were recruited for the Australian-based research. Weather data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology were sourced for the duration of the study period. Researchers from The George Institute for Global Health compared the weather at the time patients first noticed pain with weather conditions one week and one month before the onset of pain as a control measure.
"The belief that pain and inclement weather are linked dates back to Roman times. But our research suggests this belief may be based on the fact that people recall events that confirm their pre-existing views," said Chris Maher from the George Institute for Global Health. "Human beings are very susceptible so it's easy to see why we might only take note of pain on the days when it's cold and rainy outside, but discount the days when they have symptoms but the weather is mild and sunny," said Maher.
Results showed no association between back pain and temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction or precipitation. However, higher temperatures did slightly increase the chances of lower back pain but the amount of the increase was not clinically important. The findings reinforce earlier research on back pain and inclement weather from The George Institute which received widespread criticism from the public on social media.
"People were adamant that adverse weather conditions worsened their symptoms so we decided to go ahead with a new study based on data from new patients with both lower back pain and osteoarthritis," said Maher. "The results though were almost exactly the same - there is absolutely no link between pain and the weather in these conditions," Maher added.
Back pain affects up to a third of the world's population at any one time, whilst almost 10 per cent of men and 18 per cent of women over the age of 60 have osteoarthritis, said researchers. "People who suffer from either of these conditions should not focus on the weather as it does not have an important influence on your symptoms and it is outside your control," said Manuela Ferreira from The George Institute.
"What's more important is to focus on things you can control in regards to managing pain and prevention," said Ferreira. The study appears in the journal Pain Medicine....