Today’s weather: Cloudy with a Chance of Pain
In the movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Flint Lockwood invented a machine to convert water into food and becomes a local hero in his economically unstable town when food fall from the sky like rain. Like Flint's intention to solve the town's crisis, British researchers are now hoping to solve the ancient theory that there is an association between pain and weather.
In 400 B.C., the Greek philosopher Hippocrates noted that changes in the weather can affect pain levels. Throughout history, popular culture adapted the belief and coined terms such as "feeling under the weather". People claimed to be able to forecast storms and rain because they "can feel it in their bones". In a study report titled "Pain complaint and the weather: weather sensitivity and symptom complaints in chronic pain patients", author Shutty MS Jr. recalls a Journal of the American Medical Association publication in 1929 that said there was strong evidence that "warm weather is beneficial and barometric pressure changes are detrimental to patients with arthritis."
In contradiction, the 2013 Dutch Study "Influence of Weather on Daily Symptoms of Pain and Fatigue in Female Patients With Fibromyalgia: A Multilevel Regression Analysis" concluded that weather has no impact on fibromyalgia symptoms in women. In 2014, another study in Australia titled "Effect of Weather on Back Pain: Results From a Case-Crossover Study" found that acute episodes of low back pain are not associated with weather conditions such as temperature, humidity, and rain.
British researchers have developed a smartphone based study called Cloudy with a Chance of Pain that hopes to prove whether there is an association between pain and weather. When asked about the innovative study, Dr. Will Dixon, Director of The University of Manchester's Arthritis Research UK Centre for Epidemiology, said: "This question has been around for more than 2,000 years, but it's only now with widespread modern technology that we have the ability to answer it."
Using the uMotif platform, the app allows users to record how they are feeling, while weather data is automatically collected using the phone's GPS. The study is currently available to anyone in the UK with arthritis or chronic pain, over the age of 17, and can download the app with their smartphone.
Participants are encouraged to record their symptoms daily. By the end of the study period in January 2017, researchers hope to have enough information to develop "pain forecasts" based on weather predictions.
According to Dixon, people without pain can participate too. He added: "And we're not just inviting people to submit data - we want their ideas about the association between weather and pain too. We will be running a big citizen science experiment where anyone can explore the data and try and spot patterns and relationships in the data. We'll gather ideas and theories from everyone to come up with the best possible conclusion."
"Many people with arthritis believe that changes in the weather affect the level of pain they experience, however there is currently no scientific evidence to support this relationship," said Stephen Simpson, Director of Research & Programmes at Arthritis Research UK. "This exciting study will for the first time enable us to investigate the link between pain and the weather. We're delighted to support this project and we hope that the use of the uMotif app will help encourage a wide group of participants to take part, both in terms of submitting their data but also examine the results themselves to help our scientists reach a conclusion."
You can follow the University of Manchester study on Twitter at @CloudyPain.
You can also learn more by watching this video: https://vimeo.com/151891003