Why Your Back Pain Has Nothing To Do With The Weather

Lower back pain sufferers often blame their aches and pains on sudden changes in temperature. However, a new Australian study has found weather conditions are largely blameless. Temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction and precipitation played no role in acute episodes of low back pain.

Photo: Shutterstock

Australian researchers from the University of Sydney analysed the effects of weather conditions on 993 patients suffering from musculoskeletal (bone, muscle, ligament, tendon, and nerve) back pain. Weather data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology were sourced for the duration of the study period.

The results showed no association between back pain and temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction or precipitation. The study did find a weak association between exposure to higher wind speed, wind gust and back pain onset but the magnitude of this effect was deemed to be clinically insignificant.

This contradicts several previous studies which found cold or humid weather did increase symptoms in patients with chronic pain conditions. However, these studies mainly relied on patient recall of the weather and were therefore subject to incorrect data.

“Many patients believe that weather impacts their pain symptoms,” explained lead researcher Dr. Daniel Steffens. “However, our findings refute previously held beliefs that certain common weather conditions increase risk of lower back pain.”

In other words, if your back starts to give a niggle whenever storm clouds appear, it's probably psychosomatic.

The report concludes that further investigation is required to determine the influence of weather parameters on symptoms associated with specific diseases such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis. The report also acknowledges that regions with more extreme weather conditions may present a different result.

Weather does not affect back pain: results from a case-crossover study [Arthritis Care & Research]


    One study. Vs the many that have suggested an effect.
    Not controlling for extremes of weather or specific conditions.
    Research, journalists, research. Do more of it before the whole sweeping headline thing. You fluffscience reporters should know better.

    Excellent. Love the counter-intuitive stuff. Like that, "Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis!" type deal, with a response, "Actually, undertaking activities that make you feel the need to crack your knuckles is what will give you arthritis, whether you crack them or not. In fact, not cracking them might actually be worse."

    Always defeated by, "Yeah well, I know what I feel."
    Like how I've tried to convince the girls in the office that the temperature doesn't fluctuate wildly, with a thermometer to prove it. ...Obviously it's broken, because they know what they feel.

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