Do you get rain pain? Weather-related aches really do alter people’s lives

ATHENS, Ga. — Chronic pain is bad enough on a normal day, but crummy weather can make already achy joints and hips that much more painful. Tied to changes in the barometric pressure resulting from storms, the cold, and dreary forecasts, pain-based weather is a significant concern on a day-to-day basis for millions of people. Now, researchers from the University of Georgia report that roughly 70 percent of respondents in a recent poll would change their daily behavior based solely on weather-based pain forecasts.

“We’re finding more consistent relationships between weather patterns and pain, so it seems more possible to make weather-based pain forecasts,” says lead study author and geography/atmospheric sciences lecturer Christopher Elcik in a media release. “This study was to survey and see what the audience was for this type of forecast.”

In all, researchers surveyed over 4,600 people. Among respondents who identified as migraine sufferers, 89 percent pointed to weather as something that impacts their pain level, and another 79 percent cited weather as a trigger for their pain. Meanwhile, among respondents with other conditions, 64 percent also said weather patterns could trigger pain and an astounding 94 percent identified weather as an influential pain factor.

This latest report builds on previous research that focused on specific weather patterns and pain-related conditions in an attempt to measure public interest in a weather-based pain forecast, as that may be indicative of high or moderate risk for migraines or chronic pain.

“I see how much people can be affected by these types of pain, so if I can provide someone with insight into the level of risk for a day, maybe people can take steps to prevent the pain from happening,” Elcik comments. “There are preventative measures people can take if risks are higher.”

Man suffers leg injury or cramp while running
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Hypothetically, if the risk of weather-related pain were high, more than half of respondents said they were likely to take preventive measures (medication, rest, avoiding compounding triggers). Another 47 percent with migraines and 46 percent of those with pain-related conditions were also “extremely likely” to take the same measures.

Notably, desire for a forecasting tool was very high; 72 percent of those living with migraines and 66 percent with pain-related conditions said they would alter their behavior by canceling plans or taking preventive measures in the event of a weather-based pain forecast. Some respondents even said they already use online tools to predict weather-related pain.

One example is AccuWeather’s arthritis or migraine forecast, which predicts low-to-high pain risk according to atmospheric conditions. These existing tools, however, offer few details regarding the variables considered or how the predictions are actually produced.

A person’s likelihood to continue with plans also depended heavily on the length of the activity in question. If plans were roughly 30 minutes long, 57 percent of respondents with migraines and 52 percent of those with pain-related conditions said they would be “extremely likely” to continue plans even if there were a moderate risk of pain. About 43 percent from each group said they would continue even with the highest risk forecast.

Older man battling shoulder pain, back pain, arthritis
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When it came to an activity lasting more than three hours, on the other hand, that number declined to roughly 23 percent for moderate risk and 18 percent for high risk among those with migraines. For people living with other pain-related conditions, 23 percent would follow through with a three hour plus activity in the face of a moderate risk of weather pain and 21 percent would continue despite the highest risk. Generally speaking, as the level of risk increased, so did the likelihood to alter plans.

“This was across the board,” Elcik notes. “Everyone was more likely to cancel plans if the forecast risk was higher.”

While additional research and studies are necessary in order to create a reliable pain-based weather forecast, Elcik believes this study highlights the urgent importance of developing such a resource.

“This publication shows there’s an audience that’s willing and eager to try something new, and there are probably many more people who would benefit—more than we even thought,” the researcher concludes. “I think these results can push other researchers to also look at similar, larger-scale weather phenomena and help the community better understand how the atmosphere does impact pain.”

The study is published in the International Journal of Biometeorology.

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About the Author

John Anderer

Born blue in the face, John has been writing professionally for over a decade and covering the latest scientific research for StudyFinds since 2019. His work has been featured by Business Insider, Eat This Not That!, MSN, Ladders, and Yahoo!

Studies and abstracts can be confusing and awkwardly worded. He prides himself on making such content easy to read, understand, and apply to one’s everyday life.

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