Arthritis sufferers really are in more pain on wet, windy days

Not just an old wive's tale, wet weather really might make arthritis more painful. [Photo: Getty]

It’s long been assumed that wet, windy weather makes pain worse and new research appears to confirm that.

Those with conditions such as arthritis and migraines are 20% more likely to experience more pain during humid and windy weather conditions, according to scientists from the University of Manchester.

In their study, researchers asked more than 2,600 people to note the extent of their pain on different days. The participants, who suffered from arthritis, migraine, fibromyalgia or peripheral neuropathy, were significantly more uncomfortable when humidity was high.

Although unclear exactly why this occurs, a fall in pressure may cause tissues to swell.

If the joint is already inflamed, like in arthritis, the tissue may push against nerves, triggering pain.

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“Weather has been thought to affect symptoms in patients with arthritis since Hippocrates,” lead author Professor Will Dixon said. “Around three-quarters of people living with arthritis believe their pain is affected by the weather.”

Three quarters of arthritis sufferers claim the weather influences their symptoms, the scientists wrote in the journal npj Digital Medicine.

Some point the finger at cold, windy conditions, while others blame heat and changes in pressure.

Many even go as far as saying they can predict whether it will rain or shine based on the stiffness of their joints.

The low pressure that comes with humidity may cause tissues to swell. [Photo: Getty]

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For between one and 15 months, the participants noted how severe their pain was via a smartphone app. Their mobiles also recorded the weather each day.

After collecting 5.1 million pain reports, the scientists found wet and windy weather increased the patients’ discomfort by 20%.

To put this into context, on a “normal day”, their risk of pain was five in 100. This increased to six in 100 when it was wet and windy.

Cold, damp days also set off their symptoms, the results show. Dry weather was found to be the least risky.

Temperature and rainfall alone had no effect, with a link to pain only occurring when the two were combined.

The scientists hope further studies will look into why this occurs, which may “open the door to new treatments”.

It may even be possible to one day create a “pain forecast” that enables sufferers to plan their daily activities around their risk of discomfort, they said.

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Dr Stephen Simpson, director of research at the charity Versus Arthritis, which funded the study, added: “We know of the 10 million people in the UK with arthritis, over half experience life-altering pain every day.

“Supporting effective ways of self-managing pain can make all the difference for people with arthritis, helping them to get and stay in work, to be full members of the community and simply to belong.

“This research will help us understand the bigger picture of the complexity of pain caused by arthritis and how people with the condition can take control of it.”