Is the Link Between Rainy Weather and Achy Joints a Myth?

rainy weather achy joints

Many people believe that the weather can cause joint pain to get worse, and many others will have heard people say that their arthritis worsens when it rains. But is there any evidence of this link? 

A study by Harvard Medical School in the US looked at data from millions of patients to see whether there is any connection between what the weather is doing, and the severity of joint pain.

Weather database

The first large-scale study to investigate this claim involved examining the records of more than 11 million GP visits by more than 1.5 million older Americans between 2008 and 2012. 

The researchers then used a global weather database to plot daily rainfall during the same period, using the nearest weather station to the person’s address. 

No meaningful link

Study questions that the researchers asked were ‘Did patients seek care for back pain or joint pain when it rained or following periods of rainy weather?’; ‘Were patients who went to the doctor for other reasons more likely to report aching knees or back around rainy days?’; ‘What if there were several rainy days in a row?’; ‘Did patients with a prior diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis report more pain?’.

The researchers found no meaningful link between joint pain and rainy weather. They found that 6.35% of the GP visits included reports of joint pain on rainy days; compared with 6.39% on dry days.

Unreliable forecasters

Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Health Care Policy said: “It’s hard to prove a negative, but in this flood of data, if there was a clinically significant increase in pain, we would have expected to find at least some small, but significant, sign of the effect. We didn't.

“No matter how we looked at the data, we didn't see any correlation between rainfall and physician visits for joint pain or back pain. The bottom line is: Painful joints and sore backs may very well be unreliable forecasters.”

UK study

However, researchers on a UK study on the same subject say they may have found a link between the weather and pain levels. ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Pain’ is a project that asked people to use an app to record their symptoms, with their phone automatically capturing the weather data. 

Data collection finished in April 2017 and the full results are yet to be published. 

This article was written by a third party source and does not reflect the views or opinions of Ramsay Health Care unless explicitly stated.

Additional comments on the page from individual Consultants do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of other Consultants or Ramsay Health Care.

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