There has been some very interesting research done into the relationship between PAIN and the WEATHER. The Greek physician Hippocrates noticed a connection between the weather and pain nearly 2500 years ago, but it has taken until now to actually prove it through research! And we have all heard how some people can almost predict the weather if they suffer from chronic conditions like arthritis. It is even the reason why many expats are here in Spain.
Manchester University and Versus Arthritis (Previously Arthritis Research UK) teamed up to try to answer the question if weather and pain were indeed related and if so, exactly what aspect of the weather could affect people’s pain levels. They looked at humidity, temperature, pressure and wind. Thousands of people signed up for the study with a app. On a five-level scale, people were asked to rate the following every day: Pain severity, fatigue, morning stiffness, waking up feeling tired, well-being, impact of pain, sleep quality, time spent outside, physical activity and mood
The app would also log the GPS location of the subject so that the pain score could be compared to the weather for that specific location for that specific day. The study ran for 15 months and covered all areas of the UK. You could participate in the study if you were over 17 years of age and living in the UK with a chronic pain condition for at least three months. The study ran from January 2016 until April 2017 and the researchers have been busy since analysing the results.
The results showed that higher humidity, lower pressure and strong winds- in that order- were significantly associated with pain.
They did not find that temperature alone was associated with pain. But they did find that the best day in terms of less pain would be a dry and calm day with high pressure. And that is exactly what we have more of here on the Costa del Sol. The prevailing high pressure systems and associated dry, calm air may have a positive effect on their pain levels. They also found that on a “bad day”, i.e. a humid windy day with low pressure, painful days were 20% more likely compared to a day with average weather.
SO WHAT NOW:
So if we can’t control the weather, what good does this research do? The results confirm for many what they have been feeling and saying for so long. “Weather is changing; I can feel it in my joints and bones”. In fact 75% of people with chronic pain believe the weather affects their pain. The research results are in their own right gratification for many, because we can now say, yes, the weather really can affect pain. From a physiotherapy point where I help patients with chronic pain on a daily basis, knowing this can help the patient take some level of control. With this I mean that since we are fairly good at predicting the weather now, patients can plan to do more physically demanding activities on “good weather days” or perhaps adjust their expectations depending on the weather. It also means that the patient will realise that sometimes pain is not because they have either done too much or not enough. It is sometimes due to the weather!
The study used people with chronic pain, not just arthritis and they found that the effect of pressure and wind speed seems largely consistent across different pain conditions. However, relative humidity appeared to affect patients with osteoarthritis more than with other conditions. They were not able to say if using a dehumidifier in the home would be advantageous and the humidity outside would probably still affect you if you went outside.
Another thing that you can do to help your pain is take up exercise. Many of my patients have osteoarthritis (this is what is commonly known as “wear and tear arthritis”) and have come to Spain because of this. While you may worry that exercising with osteoarthritis (OA) could harm your joints and cause more pain, research shows that people can and should exercise when they have osteoarthritis. In fact, exercise is considered the most effective, non-drug treatment for reducing pain and improving movement in patients with osteoarthritis.
If you would like to join one of our Arthritis Exercise Classes, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
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