Joints Achy? Don't Blame Mother Nature
Study disputes weather's role in knee and back pain
You might want to think twice the next time you're ready to blame the weather for your aches and pains, researchers say.
Some people swear that changes in humidity, temperature, air pressure and the like trigger back pain and arthritis. But a team at the George Institute for Global Health in Newtown, Australia said it found no evidence to support that theory.
"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," said Chris Maher, director of the institute's musculoskeletal division.
The study included nearly 1,350 Australians with either lower back pain or osteoarthritis of the knee. The study participants' pain flare-ups were compared with weather data.
There was no association between back pain/knee arthritis and temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction or precipitation, the investigators found.
"Human beings are very susceptible so it's easy to see why we might only take note of pain on the days when it's cold and rainy outside, but discount the days when they have symptoms but the weather is mild and sunny," Maher explained in an institute news release.
Maher is also a professor of physiotherapy at the University of Sydney.
Back pain affects up to one-third of people worldwide at any one time. Nearly 10 percent of men and 18 percent of women over the age of 60 have osteoarthritis, the study authors said in background notes.
Manuela Ferreira, an associate professor of medicine who led the osteoarthritis research, said, "People who suffer from either of these conditions should not focus on the weather as it does not have an important influence on your symptoms and it is outside your control.
"What's more important is to focus on things you can control in regards to managing pain and prevention," he concluded.
Ferreira is a senior research fellow at the George Institute and the Institute of Bone and Joint Research at the University of Sydney.
The U.S. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has more on back pain.