Arthritis

11 January 2017

Don't blame the weather for your achy joints

A recent Australian study suggests that the role of the weather in knee and back pain is highly insignificant.

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You might want to think twice the next time you're ready to blame the weather for your aches and pains, researchers say.

Back to Roman times

Some people swear that changes in humidity, temperature, air pressure and the like trigger back pain and arthritis. But a team at the George Institute for Global Health in Newtown, Australia said it found no evidence to support that theory.

"The belief that pain and inclement weather are linked dates back to Roman times. But our research suggests this belief may be based on the fact that people recall events that confirm their pre-existing views," said Chris Maher, director of the institute's musculoskeletal division.

Read: 7 everyday things that can damage your joints

The study included nearly 1,350 Australians with either lower back pain or osteoarthritis of the knee. The study participants' pain flare-ups were compared with weather data.

There was no association between back pain/knee arthritis and temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction or precipitation, the investigators found.

"Human beings are very susceptible so it's easy to see why we might only take note of pain on the days when it's cold and rainy outside, but discount the days when they have symptoms but the weather is mild and sunny," Maher explained in an institute news release.

Maher is also a professor of physiotherapy at the University of Sydney.

Read: Joint, tendon, and muscle pain

Back pain affects up to one-third of people worldwide at any one time. Nearly 10 percent of men and 18 percent of women over the age of 60 have osteoarthritis, the study authors said in background notes.

Don't focus on the weather

Manuela Ferreira, an associate professor of medicine who led the osteoarthritis research, said, "People who suffer from either of these conditions should not focus on the weather as it does not have an important influence on your symptoms and it is outside your control.

"What's more important is to focus on things you can control in regards to managing pain and prevention," he concluded.

Ferreira is a senior research fellow at the George Institute and the Institute of Bone and Joint Research at the University of Sydney.

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Arthritis expert

Professor Asgar Ali Kalla completed his MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) degree in 1975 at the University of Cape Town and his FRCP in 2003 in London. Professor Ali Kalla is the Isaac Albow Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Cape Town and also the Head of Division of Rheumatology at Groote Schuur Hospital. He has participated in a number of clinical trials for rheumatology and is active in community outreach. Prof Ali Kalla is an expert in Arthritis for Health24.

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