The association between weather and pain in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has puzzled the medical world for ages. The widespread belief that certain painful health conditions are affected by the weather dates back to at least Hippocrates in the fourth century B.C. A recent study has however shed more light into association though the ambiguity remains. There is evidence suggesting that pain in some individuals is more affected by the weather than in others, and that patients react in different ways to the weather. However it seems there is no consistent group effect of weather conditions on pain in people with RA.
It is well known that more than 60% of patients with RA believe that their pain is affected by the weather. Most of the explanations are psychological. The belief that rain causes pain makes the patient pay much more attention to to pain. The patients doesn't so much notice sunny days with pain and as much as rainy days without pain. There could also be a mood-pain link. For example, rainy days generally may make the patient feel depressed, and that the gloomy mood somehow will lower the pain threshold.
AdvertisementNew studies reveal that a bio-physiological impact of weather factors on the body (in some individuals) cannot be ruled out. This impact may be independent of the aforementioned psychological explanations. A systematic review of available studies that explored the association between weather variables and severity of pain in RA was done. Nine studies were included. Temperature, relative humidity and atmospheric pressure were the three weather variables extensively studied.
The results are puzzling. Evidences suggests that there is no relationship between three single weather variables (temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure) and pain in patients with RA. It has however been suggested that a small proportion of patients are weather sensitive. The patients differed as to which variables they responded to and in which direction. Though the research has been first of its kind but it is not devoid of limitations. Extensive studies are hence solicited so that the associated ambiguity can be ended.
So the next time your granny says that it might rain when her joint pain gets worse, don't just grin at her. She might be true! Let us wait for better scientific evidences.
Source: European Journal of Pain
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