Cloudy with a chance of pain?
Some of you may have heard of, or even participated in the Cloudy with a chance of pain study at the University of Manchester – investigating relationships between weather and symptom patterns in people with long-term pain conditions. The study recruited over 13,000 individuals from every postcode in the UK (!) and used the uMotif platform for people to track daily symptoms, while local weather could then be determined using location data from phone GPS.
Weather has long been thought to impact symptoms in patients with chronic disease – going way back to the time of Hippocrates in ancient Greece over 2000 years ago. While it has been suggested that as many as 3 out of 4 people living with arthritis believe their pain is affected by the weather. This study, with results published today in the Nature journal npj Digital Medicine (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41746-019-0180-3#Ack1) appears to confirm these beliefs; suggesting that higher relative humidity and wind speed, and lower atmospheric pressure, are associated with increased pain in people with long-term pain conditions. This effect remained even when taking into account changes in mood and physical activity. In fact, the ‘worst’ combination of weather variables was found to increase the chances of a pain event by over 20%.
This study not only found interesting results in terms of pain but reflects the importance of citizen science and demonstrates first-hand the power of smartphone technology to support health research. It is great to see the results published – congratulations to everyone on the cloudy team and to all those who took part in the study!