Study Crowdsources Information On How Weather Affects Chronic Pain

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The Law Of... studying chronic pain symptoms

A study by the University of Manchester is looking to prove a 2,300 year old question, as it looks to establish whether weather conditions have an effect on the symptoms of pain for those suffering from chronic pain conditions, such as arthritis.

The Law Of... studying chronic pain symptoms

Crowdsourcing the data from real-world chronic pain sufferers armed with a smartphone, the study – titled Cloudy with a chance of Pain – hopes to see a correlation between adverse weather conditions and the level of pain suffered by participants.

Crowdsourcing Data

The project asks chronic pain sufferers to download an app on their smartphone, which will allow them to log their level of pain every day.

The app will then correlate the weather data for each day, which will hopefully allow those involved to make a connection between the weather and the amount of pain suffered by those facing a chronic pain condition.

Based on anecdotal evidence and a 2,300 year old hypothesis by the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, the project is looking to correlate the age-old claim that those suffering from chronic pain suffer from heightened pain in spells of bad weather.

The researchers behind the study have enlisted more than 9,000 people suffering from chronic pain conditions including arthritis, back problems and migraines.

Effects Of Weather Conditions

People have long complained that bad weather makes their pain worse and some chronic pain sufferers have suggested that they can predict a change in the weather, via an increase in symptoms.

Scientific studies are yet to establish a correlation between weather and pain symptoms; however there are some theories as to why weather could affect a sufferer's level of pain.

  • A leading theory suggests that pain levels can be caused by a drop in air pressure. Barometric pressure is the weight of the atmosphere around us and this pressure drops during spells of bad weather. Lower air pressure pushes less against the body, the theory being that this allows tissues to expand and those expanded tissues can put pressure on the joints
  • A simpler theory is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which claims that sunshine and better weather can improve an individual's mood and outlook, improving their ability to deal with pain

The preliminary findings of Cloudy with a chance of Pain seem to suggest that as the number of sunny days increased from February to June, the amount of time people experienced pain fell; on the other hand during wet weather in June, the level of pain suffered by participants increased.

Debilitating Nature Of Chronic Pain

Discussing the research project, and explaining the debilitating nature of chronic pain, Dawn commented:

"Chronic pain has a significant impact on everyday quality of life and any research that helps our understanding of the potential reasons for an exacerbation of chronic pain can only be of benefit to the estimated 10 million Britons who suffer from pain daily."

"With increased research comes better understanding of this debilitating condition, which will hopefully lead to advances in treatment and pain management."

"The app required to take part also allows individuals to track and view their own level of pain, which could help develop their understanding about their specific condition."

"I hope that the researchers are able to correlate enough data to prove, or disprove, any theories relating to the effect weather conditions have on chronic pain."

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