Does the weather cause muscle and joint pain?


Tuesday, 27 February, 2024


Does the weather cause muscle and joint pain?

A University of Sydney-led study has questioned the commonly held belief that temperature and humidity changes can trigger musculoskeletal pains or arthritis.

Researchers pooled data from existing international studies on weather and musculoskeletal pain that involved over 15,000 participants reporting over 28,000 new episodes or worsening of muscle or joint pain.

Knee or hip osteoarthritis were the most common conditions reported, followed by low back pain and rheumatoid arthritis.

The study found that here is no clear connection between the weather and back, knee or hip pain — however, high temperatures and low humidity may double the risk of a gout flare. This was due to the fact that warm weather could lead to dehydration and increased uric acid concentration in people with gout.

The study results also highlight a wider issue: although more than a quarter of Australians are affected by a chronic musculoskeletal condition, there are still widespread misconceptions and limited treatment options.

Researchers say patients are often left to navigate and understand their medical condition without proper support.

“There is a common perception that there is an increase of musculoskeletal symptoms such as back pain, hip pain or arthritic symptoms during certain types of weather,” said lead author Professor Manuela Ferreira from Sydney Musculoskeletal Health, an initiative of the University of Sydney, Sydney Local Health District and Northern Sydney Local Health District.

“Our research challenges that thinking by showing that come rain or shine, weather has no direct link with most of our aches and pains.”

The review found changes in air temperature, air humidity, pressure and rainfall do not seem to increase the risk of knee, hip or lower back pain symptoms and are not associated with new care-seeking events for arthritis.

This is the first study to evaluate data from studies specifically designed to look at the role of transient, modifiable risk factors, such as weather, on muscle and joint symptoms.

The researchers say the findings ‘debunk’ a common medical myth while also issuing an important warning to patients to not let the weather impact treatment options.

“When seeking pain prevention and relief, both patients and clinicians should focus on how to best manage the condition, including weight management and exercises, and not focus on the weather and let it influence treatment,” Ferreira said.

The study was published Seminars in arthritis and rheumatism.

Image credit: iStock.com/andreswd

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