Stormy weather not to blame for back pain

Stormy weather not to blame for back pain

Have you ever met someone who claims they can predict a storm by the aches and pain they feel in their back?

A new study, published in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), found that acute occurrences of pain in the lower back are not related to weather conditions including humidity, pressure in the air, the temperature, direction of the wind and rain.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) most people experience lower back pain at some point in their life, which makes this discomfort the most dominant musculoskeletal condition, affecting up to 33 percent of the world population.

This study used 993 patients who were found in Sydney, Australia between October 2011 and November 2012. The weather data was collected from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. The main focus of this study was to compare the weather at the time patients first noticed back pain with weather conditions one week and one month before the onset of pain.

The study results showed no connection between back pain and weather changes. Researchers did find that higher wind speed and wind gusts may have minimally increased the chances of lower back pain, but results were not clinically noteworthy.

Dr. Steffens, a researcher on this study said in a press release that the findings “refute previously held beliefs that certain common weather conditions increase risk of lower back pain.”

Dr. Mehul Sekhadia, a pain management physician with Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill., says he has had many patients come through that describe increased “joint” pain with weather changes.

“Studies have never really corroborated these findings,” he says. “I usually tell patients that there are an equal number of people with pain in every climate, whether it is California, Minnesota or Florida. What we do know is that temperature, humidity, barometric pressure all play roles on our psyche. Extremes in any direction seem to make people feel worse.  When we feel depressed or anxious, our subjective feeling of pain is higher, even in the absence of any new medical finding.”

Dr. Mark Neault, an orthopedic surgeon with Advocate Medical Group in Libertyville, Ill., says it is important to remember the difference between acute and chronic pain.

“It has been seen that atmospheric pressure changes mostly affect arthritic joints and chronic pain. The present article addresses acute pain,” he says. “I think the results of this study make sense. It is important to point out that this study is not referring to chronic pain and arthritic conditions specifically.”

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  1. The change in barometric pressure due to an oncoming storm may not affect your back (except in your head, so to speak), but it’s sure a different story for joint pain. Knuckles, knees, elbows and hips can certainly be affected by story weather, even a shoulder joint or an ankle. The bakc seems to be an exception, perhaps because it’s built differently than joints are.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

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