Researchers Say Weather Not Linked to Back Pain

Researchers Say Weather Not Linked to Back Pain

You can blame a lot of things on the weather, but low back pain isn’t one of them, according to a new study out of Australia.

Researchers there found that sudden, acute episodes of low back pain are not linked to weather conditions such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, and precipitation. They did find that the risk of back pain slightly increases in gusty or high winds, but the association was not clinically significant.

Their findings are published in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology.

bigstock-back-pain-16821887“Many patients believe that weather impacts their pain symptoms,” said lead author Daniel Steffens with the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney in Australia.

“Patients with musculoskeletal pain commonly report that certain weather conditions influence their symptoms, the pain from rheumatoid arthritis being a clear example of this. Previous studies have reported that cold or humid weather conditions and changes in weather conditions negatively influence symptoms in patients suffering chronic pain.”

Many of those studies are flawed however, because there was no control period and they relied on patient recall of weather conditions at the time of their symptoms.

For their study, Steffens and his colleagues recruited 993 patients who were treated for low back pain at primary care clinics in Sydney, Australia between October 2011 and November 2012. Sydney has a temperate climate with warm summers, mild winters and rainfall spread throughout the year.

Using weather data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, researchers compared the weather at the time patients first noticed back pain with weather conditions one week and one month before the onset of pain.

They found little evidence that episodes of low back pain were linked to weather conditions.

“Our study provides clear evidence that weather does not have an important effect on LBP (low back pain) onset. Only a trivial increase in the risk was observed with higher wind speed 24 hours prior to the onset of pain in this population of Australian adults,” wrote Steffens.

“One possible explanation for the lack of effect in our results may be the temperate climate of the Sydney region where the study was conducted. Regions with more extreme weather conditions may present a different result, but further research is needed.”

Steffens noted that there may be other types of chronic pain and musculoskeletal conditions other than low back pain that may be affected by weather conditions.

“Further investigation of the influence of weather parameters on symptoms associated with specific diseases such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis are needed,” he wrote.

A study released last year by Dutch researchers found that weather conditions such as temperature, sunshine, and precipitation have no impact on fibromyalgia symptoms in female patients.

Many of our readers objected to the report, saying there was a strong association between sudden weather changes and their fibromyalgia pain, fatigue and other symptoms.

“I am a human barometer, I can tell you a storm is coming before the meteorologist know it,” wrote Penny Simpson.

“Sorry, but I just don’t believe this. I can normally tell what the weather is before I even got out of bed,” said Anne Adams.

“I guess my rheumatologist is a liar and so am I. My body is so in tune to the weather,” said Emily Greer.

Authored by: Pat Anson, Editor

There are 3 comments for this article
  1. Jason at 7:58 pm

    Try again researchers as you have no clue as to what Chronic pain is when it comes to the weather. I highly doubt that you will never know as each person is uniquely different in this arena of serious pain. I know all to well about weather changes and how it affects my neck and back. Serious pain/aches all day with my medication because of rain/humidity factors. Never had pain like this before with the weather, but after my accident whenever a rainstorm approaches or when the humidity rises I feel the aches and soreness alot more than when it does not rain.

  2. BL at 4:58 pm

    Living in different parts of the United States has a different impact on those who suffer from chronic pain. You can’t do a study in the south and say it applies to everyone who lives in the U.S. or in the world. I just wish I knew how someone can publish an article stating that weather isn’t linked to back pain and in the same article state the info this is based on had no controls.

  3. Linda Tyson at 10:38 am

    I wish someone would do a study in a climate that has drastic weather climate changes. I have chronic lower back pain with two failed back surgeries and fibromyalgia. When living in Southern California with very mild shifts in climate except during high wind season, my body made me aware of what was going on outside before I got out of bed. Even my bed, made by a manufacturer with air pressure chambers, reacts to barometric pressure changes. Since living in North TX., my body has suffered due to the drastic weather conditions. When in a major flare, my doctors even indicate their offices are busy with patients who are inflammed and in pain “due to the weather”. These studies are biased and totally off the curve when conducted in climates that are mild and more consistent.