It turns out that people have strong opinions about the association between weather and their back pain.
As far as we can tell this ‘belief’ has never before been rigorously and scientifically evaluated so I was interested to read about an attempt to do so.
An article published by Chris Maher, a Professor of Physiotherapy in Sydney Medical School, describes how they used data from a different study to see if any correlations existed with historical weather conditions. This investigatory study was originally asking if the weather was more likely to distract you or make you feel fatigued during activity and if this had an affect of recurring back pain in 1000 primary-care patients over a 14 month period.
Since the original study had nothing to do with weather data there was no risk for any bias influence when the case-crossover analysis took place. Since the original study took place over 14 months there was historical weather data for all 4 seasons in the year.
The results from the study showed no association between back pain and weather conditions. However when the results were published the study authors apparently received a lot of colourful responses in protest from public and patients alike.
The researchers believe their data and analysis to be sound but admit to potential variables which could change the outcome of such a study such as more cold/wet climates and different pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis.
We do know that the weather can affect one’s mood and how we are feeling can affect how with think in the presence of pain, this is turn can affect the severity of pain symptoms. As such I feel cognitive and emotional factors also need to be taken into account in this type of study.
The study was also conducted in the temperate climate of Sydney, Australia. I wonder what the results would have said if it were to be replicated here in our colder and wetter climate of Ireland!
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