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New research from The George Institute for Global Health shows that back pain and osteoarthritis symptoms have absolutely no correlation to the weather outside—and scientists and doctors want patients to stop focusing on the temperature and start concentrating on real, effective pain management.
This study shows that it's probably all in your head.
It's long been thought that changes in the weather can exacerbate or trigger physical pain. In fact, the belief that somehow humidity and temperature can determine your pain levels dates back to ancient Rome. And even today people swear that their symptoms are worse when the weather is rainy or cold, but scientists are now postulating that humans have selective memories and tend to remember their pain more on days that are dreary—compared to those that are sunny and warm.
The Australian research team recruited almost 1,000 participants (with back pain or knee osteoarthritis) and compared the weather to the participants' symptoms. Results showed that pain and pain onset was not correlated to temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction, wind speed, wind gusts, or precipitation. They did find a slight connection between back pain and higher temperatures, but the correlation was not significant enough to really matter when it comes to patients actually experiencing and managing their pain.
If that's the case, how do we measure pain?
Recently in the news, the need for better methods of measuring and explaining pain symptoms has been brought to light—and that the current pain scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the worst pain imaginable) is vague and intangible. Chronic pain is on the rise, and we've relied too long on dangerous opioids, the overprescription and abuse of which is now being called the worst drug crisis in American history.
These are important things to consider for anyone with chronic pain, a problem that costs the United States over $600 billion (and each individual as much as $300) every year. The more each person knows about the cause and triggers of their specific pain, the more likely we are to get it right when it comes to treatment.