I am sure over the past few weeks, you like I, have started to notice the sun rising later in the mornings and the cooler evenings that are starting to set in. In the cooler months we tend to notice our aches and pains a little more than usual, but is it really due to the change in the weather?
It is thought that 62-97% of people who suffer from musculoskeletal conditions believe that their pain is influenced by a change in weather conditions.1 A very recent study review by Beukenhorst et al from earlier in 2020 examined the current existing evidence in the area to see if the weather really does cause us to experience pain or aggravate our current painful conditions.1
The review by Beukenhorst et al demonstrated that there is no high quality evidence to suggest that the weather has an influence on musculoskeletal pain conditions.1 Some smaller studies have been suggestive that there may be a link, but no large high level research trials have been completed to date to suggest that the weather does influence pain.1
Although this current review of the evidence was unable to establish a link between a change in weather conditions and a change in pain, it did provide some possible reasons behind our long-standing beliefs that the weather influences our pain.
The first thought is that many people have an underlying belief that a change in the weather will cause an increase in their pain and as a result, they perceive that their pain is worse that day.1 The impact that our thoughts, beliefs and attitudes have on pain have a strong evidence base in musculoskeletal and chronic pain conditions.1
The second proposed mechanism is that changes in weather patterns lead to changes in lifestyle factors.1 In the cooler months people tend to exercise a lot less than in the summer, sleep for longer periods of time, have changes in their mood, have reduced vitamin D activity due to longer periods of time inside and have changes in overall metabolic activity.1 These factors have all been well researched individually and have shown separately to have lasting effects on both musculoskeletal conditions and chronic pain.1
Lastly from a pathophysiological point of view, it has been shown in some animal based studies that scar tissue is affected by changes in the weather and the pain generating nerve fibres which live within muscles and joints may be affected by low pressure changes.1 One cadaver study also found that changes in atmospheric pressure may aggravate pain by influencing the movement of the fluids within a joint.1
Overall this recent study has given us a few ideas to why we may notice a few more aches and pains while the weather is changing, however there needs to be further research into the area to see if there is a conclusive link between pain and the weather.
What we do know though, is that if you are suffering any musculoskeletal aches and pains, physiotherapy is a good treatment option, and we are still here open for you in the city CBD.
- APA Beukenhorst, Anna L.a,*; Schultz, David M.b,c; McBeth, Johna,d; Sergeant, Jamie C.a,e; Dixon, William G.a,d Are weather conditions associated with chronic musculoskeletal pain? Review of results and methodologies, PAIN: April 2020 – Volume 161 – Issue 4 – p 668-683 doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001776