Stop Blaming Your Joint Pain on the Weather


Some people believe they can attribute their back or knee pain to cold or rainy weather. They’re wrong, according to researchers at the George Institute for Global Health.

In a study published in Pain Medicine, researchers found that weather has no influence over the symptoms associated with back pain or osteoarthritis. One thousand participants with lower back pain and 350 participants with knee osteoarthritis took part in the study.

Credit: Celeste Pascual/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Researchers studied weather information from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. They then compared what the weather was like from when patients said they first noticed pain with weather conditions. Weather one week and one month before the patients felt pain was reviewed and used as a control measure for the study.

The researchers suggested that people have a tendency to only notice pain on rainy or cold days, but disregard any symptoms in sunny weather. Chris Maher, study author and professor at the Sydney Medical School in Australia, said that weather and pain have been conceptually linked for ages.

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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,” Maher said in a press release.  “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.”

The study found no link between back pain and weather conditions, such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction or precipitation. While higher temperatures were suggested to increase lower back pain, the information gathered wasn’t considered clinically significant, the study authors indicated.

“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,” Maher said. “The results though were almost exactly the same – there is absolutely no link between pain and the weather in these conditions.”

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Previous research by the institute about back pain and erratic weather received criticism from social media. This new study supports the previous study, proving the institute’s point that weather and pain aren’t related.

Normal knee (left) vs. knee with Osteoarthritis (right). Credit: BruceBlaus/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

The previous study on osteoarthritis was also conducted in Sydney, Australia, where average daily temperatures varied from 5.4C to 32.8C. Ten percent of men and 18 percent of women over 60 years old have osteoarthritis, the study said. Manuela Ferreira, associate professor at the University of Sydney and senior research fellow at the institute, said the weather shouldn’t be to blame.

“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,” Ferreira said. “What’s more important is to focus on things you can control in regards to managing pain and prevention.”