For thousands of years, people have believed that changes in the weather, including temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction and precipitation caused their joints to ache. You may remember an elderly relative predicting "My joints feel a storm coming" — and a storm often soon arrived.
But if you think changes in the weather trigger pain in your back, think again, says research from The George Institute for Global Health which found that weather didn't affect either back pain or osteoarthritis.
"The belief that pain and inclement weather are linked dates back to Roman times," said researcher Chris Maher. "But our research suggests this belief may be based on the fact that people recall events that confirm their pre-existing views.
He believes people are more aware of their pain on cold, rainy days, but tend to ignore it when the sun comes out.
"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," he said.
Almost 1,000 Australians with lower back pain, and around 350 with knee osteoarthritis were recruited for a study to test the weather's connection with pain.
Weather data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology was used, and researchers 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.
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.
Maher found similar results in an earlier study on back pain and weather, and was widely criticized 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," he said.
"The results though were almost exactly the same — there is absolutely no link between pain and the weather in these conditions."
According to the American Chiropractic Association, half of all working Americans say they have symptoms of back pain every year, and low back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide.
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