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Weather and Chronic Pain

Weather and Chronic Pain

Weather is certainly a hot topic around Rochester these days. It was only two weeks ago that we saw the temperature drop 50 degrees in a 24 hour period.  Many chronic pain sufferers complain of an increase in pain when the weather changes or during extreme temperatures. Many people report that they can tell when a storm is coming by increased pain. Physical complaints being attributed to weather include bad moods, migraines, poor sleep, joint pain and lower back pain. The Weather Channel even has an “Aches and Pains” forecast. They calculate this forecast using the barometric pressure, the absolute humidity, the chance of precipitation, the temperature and the wind. 

 Research has shown strong correlation between the lack of sunshine, lower temperatures and pain reports, however pain is not an inevitable consequence. It appears that pain levels may increase as a function of change in atmospheric pressure from one day to the next. There is research that supports the general opinion that relative humidity influences perceived symptoms of osteoarthritis, however, some of the research has not proven to be clinically relevant. There have also been geographic studies on pain complaints in different parts of the US including the Northeast and Southern California. Results have shown that there are no fewer chronic pain sufferers from region to region, interestingly enough.  One thought about why many people from our region feel better when they vacation in warmer climates has been that they are removed from their everyday tasks such as long work hours, household chores such as laundry, cleaning and even meal making. When we vacation we typically have fewer stressors which likely contribute to feeling better.

Regardless of the research, weather sensitivity seems to be a highly individual experience. Spring is finally here in Rochester and warmer temperatures should be coming!  

Valerie McGrath, PT

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