Cloudy with a chance of Pain

People have long claimed that the weather affects the pain experienced from conditions such as arthritis, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of people predicting changes in the weather based on sensation in their joints. Research led by the University of Manchester is using new technology to put this ancient wisdom to the test.

Launched in January 2016, for the first time researchers are using a smartphone app to collect data and investigate the connection between chronic pain and the weather. ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Pain’ research project involves over 9,000 participants. They were asked to record their symptoms each day using the uMotif app on their smartphone. This information is then matched to weather reports from their area, as identified by their smartphone’s location data.

Early results indicate that these age-old beliefs have merit. Analysis of 100 participants in three regions, Norwich, Leeds and London, found that increased hours of sunlight between February and April led to a reduction in the reports of severe pain. However, pain levels were shown to increase during a particularly rainy June, despite the hours of daylight and relative warmth during that month.

The project, a collaboration supported by Arthritis Research UK, uMotif, the Office for Creative Research in New York and the Health eResearch Centre, and led by the University of Manchester, will conclude its data gathering in January 2017. Subsequent analysis will no doubt offer further insights for patients, osteopaths and the wider medical community.

It is hoped that the results of the research project will help people experiencing chronic pain to better predict and manage their symptoms, including the possibility of a ‘pain forecast’ to help people plan ahead. It should also provide healthcare professionals a wealth of information from which they can develop better interventions and treatment plans.

You can find out more about the project by visiting