News & ExpertsScience & ProgressDoes Weather Affect Pain? Here's What We Know

Does Weather Affect Pain? Here’s What We Know

What is the Study?

A team of medical practitioners in the United Kingdom is encouraging people with arthritis and other chronic pain conditions to share information about their symptoms via smartphone. By examining the symptoms of participants over an extended period, the doctors behind Cloudy With a Chance of Pain hope to learn whether weather conditions, like cold or rainy days, exacerbate pain symptoms.

The research team is encouraging as many people as possible to participate. The study is open to all people living in the United Kingdom and over the age of 17 who suffer from arthritis and other chronic pain conditions. Of course, participants must also have access to a smartphone. Registering for the study is as simple as downloading the uMotif app and creating a user account.

How Does it Work?

Once people register to take part in the study, they are required to score the severity of their symptoms every night for up to six months. Participants enter their ratings into a smartphone, which sends the data to the Cloudy With a Chance of Pain team. In addition, the GPS data on smartphones collects weather data on the places participants have been.

“Collectively that brings together a massive data set through time that we can analyze,” Dr. Will Dixon, a rheumatologist and clinical epidemiologist leading the research, told Daily Mail.

Throughout the study, participants can view their own data and look for patterns in it. They are welcome to submit any patterns, or lack of patterns, detected to the researchers to assist in the work.

The British researchers will collect data from the uMotif app throughout 2016. They hope to have reached a conclusion by summer 2017.

What Does the Study Hope to Achieve?

The study ultimately aims to help doctors forecast when pain is likely to occur. The doctors hope to produce a daily pain forecast, similar to the pollen forecasts warning people with hay fever to stay indoors. The pain forecast would help health practitioners devise preventative pain management plans to minimize the suffering of their patients.

It would also help patients plan their lives better to avoid pain. For example, if a person with osteoporosis knew the weather would cause stiffness and knee pain while walking on Saturday, he or she might choose to shop for groceries on Thursday instead.

Carolyn Gamble, a student at the University of Manchester who suffers from ankylosing, a form of arthritis, is optimistic about the applications of a pain forecast.

“[It] would enable me to change my behaviour and activity and manage my life better,” she explained, before adding that it would also give her greater peace of mind. “If it’s the weather, you know it’s out of your control so you can stop thinking what is it I’ve done?”

The results of the Cloudy With a Chance of Pain study have the potential to help us all improve our understanding of pain and its triggers.

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