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Harvard Health Blog
Bad weather isn’t to blame for your aching back
- By Howard E. LeWine, MD, Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
Do you have an older relative or friend who says “There’s a storm coming” because his or her back is hurting more than usual? A team of Australian researchers has thing to say to that person: bunk.
Daniel Steffens, of the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney, Australia, and his colleagues followed nearly 1,000 people who were seen for acute low back pain in several Sydney primary care clinics. To see if the pain was linked to weather, the investigators noted the weather conditions when the back pain started, as well one week and one month earlier.
And they found … nothing. No connection between back pain and temperature, rain, humidity, or air pressure. The results were published online in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.
“Our findings refute previously held beliefs that certain common weather conditions increase risk of lower back pain,” Steffens said in a news release from the journal.
Weather and pain – more research needed
Sudden onset of low back pain is extremely common. Most of us have at least one episode during our lifetime. Why does this happen? Some people blame changes in the weather, but the new Australian study doesn’t support that.
This isn’t the first word on the pain-weather connection. For example, back in 1995, Robert Newlin Jamison, PhD, professor of psychiatry and anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues asked more than 500 people with chronic pain living in four different cities if weather affected their pain. Most said yes. The perceptions weren’t related to regional climate, but the researchers couldn’t rule out if changes in weather had an effect.
The Australian study isn’t likely to be the last word on the subject, either. If animals can sense earthquakes, then it may be possible for people with back pain, arthritis, or other types of pain to sense changes in the weather that the rest of us don’t notice. I’ll believe it when there’s some good proof.
About the Author
Howard E. LeWine, MD, Chief Medical Editor, Harvard Health Publishing
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