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Weather and Increased Pain: Is There A Link?

If a person feels that his or her pain threshold becomes less with weather changes then, they could be right if the studies and research are to be believed. There has been a common belief since ages that there is a direct connection between pain and different weather conditions. This is seen especially in people with known chronic pain conditions like osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and other disorders that cause pain.  A recent study has shown that local weather conditions bring about a spurt in online searches for symptoms of pain and how to manage them[1, 2, 3].

In cases of osteoarthritis, the pain waxes and wanes and there is a lot of data which states that patients with this condition often report increased pain perception with decreased atmospheric temperature. In addition, barometric pressure and humidity also act as potent triggers for increased pain perception.  In fact the data suggests that every two out of three people with chronic pain conditions like osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia complain of increased pain with a drop in temperature or cooler weather conditions[1, 2, 3].

However, the data that is being talked about here is based on self–reported complaints and the scientific literature is quite conflicting and opposite. The scientific literature mentions that majority of the study is based on patients self-perceived pain sensitivity to climatic changes and there is little research into finding out whether there is a direct link between weather and chronic pain[1, 2, 3]. This article goes deep into this topic and makes an attempt in finding whether there is an actual association between weather and increased pain.

Weather and Increased Pain: Is There A Link?

Scientists from the University of Manchester in United Kingdom conducted a study which involved approximately 13,000 participants throughout the country but the data from only 2700 participants who participated in the study on a daily basis were actually taken.  The researchers released the findings of the study which mentions that there may be a link between weather and increased pain[3].

Most of the participants in the study had some or the other chronic pain conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, migraines, and neuropathy.  The data was collected utilizing a mobile phone application where the participants had to fill in their pain levels on a daily basis and the application recorded the weather conditions of that specific area on that specific day[3].

A close analysis of the data showed that the chances of a person with chronic pain condition increased by about 20% on windy and muggy days when the temperatures were cold when compared to an average sunny day.  However, there was no data or explanation given as to why this happened.  This makes the study questionable[3].

However, other researchers have come up with a theory as to why cold weather conditions increase pain perception.  According to this theory, that weather changes may modulate affective changes that then mediate pain levels and makes them worse.  It has been shown that changes in weather conditions have a relationship with emotional states of people with chronic pain[1, 2].

There are several studies that have shown that decreased barometric pressure was associated with increased stress.  Thus, the researchers hypothesized that self-reported stress measured concomitantly with pain should also be a mediator or moderator for the relation between weather changes and increased pain[1, 2].

They believe that further analysis should be done to study the effect weather has on the stress level of a person thereby increasing pain should be studied more closely to establish a concrete link between weather and increased pain perception[1, 2].


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Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 1, 2021

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