Joint pain? Don’t blame the weather

By YOU
15 January 2017

You may want to think twice the next time you’re about to blame the weather for aches and pains.

Some people swear that changes in humidity and temperature can trigger back pain and arthritis.

But a team at the George Institute for Global Health in Australia has found no evidence to support the theory that the weather plays a part in such symptoms.

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"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 Professor Chris Maher. "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."

Almost 1000 people with lower back pain and around 350 with knee osteoarthritis were recruited for the Australian study. Weather data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology was gathered for the duration of the study period, with researchers proceeding to compare the weather at the time with when patients first noticed pain, with conditions one week and one month before the onset of pain.

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.

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Professor Maher added: "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. The results though were almost exactly the same - there is absolutely no link between pain and the weather in these conditions."

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 percent of women over the age of 60 have osteoarthritis, according to the researchers.

The studies were carried out across Australia with average daily temperatures ranging from 5.4C to 32.8C.

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