Turns out the “cold weather means achy joints” thing is an old wives’ tale. New studies from Australia demonstrate that air pressure changes and rainfall aren’t the things causing you to feel your pain more intensely.
The studies, both conducted by The George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney in Australia, show that people’ self-reported pain doesn’t have an association with weather events.
The research showed no correlation between pain incidence and weather data collected from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. One study examined low back pain. The other, knee pain.
The back pain study examined one thousand adult subjects over four years. They collected data from Sydney doctors. There was no relationship between the onset of pain symptoms and inclement weather.
The researchers looked at precipitation, wind speed, air pressure and humidity. The second study, consisting of 350 subjects who had knee arthritis, had similar results. They were asked to periodically assign a number value to the severity of their knee pain. The numbers bore no relationship to meteorological data.
The studies corroborate previous research conducted in 2014, also by the George Institute for Global Health, that showed low back pain was unrelated to weather changes. The study, weirdly, was lambasted 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 lower back pain and osteoarthritis,” said Chris Maher, the director of the George Institute’s musculoskeletal division.
“The results were almost exactly the same: There is absolutely no link between pain and the weather in these conditions.”
“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.”
There are dissenters in medicine. Like Dr. Robert Shmerling, clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Despite these studies, it is not possible to say that there is no link, especially given how much people report that for them there is a strong link.”
“It is nearly impossible to ‘prove a negative’ – there is always a possibility that a particular weather feature does affect a particular type of arthritis in a particular set of people – but so far we haven’t figured out if that’s the case.”
Does weather affect pain? Science says no, except when it says yes.