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10 Articles in Volume 16, Issue #4
Achilles Tendon Injuries
Brain Trauma in Sports
Genetic Testing: Adjunct in the Medical Management of Chronic Pain
Letters to the Editor: Sleep Apnea, SPG Blocks for Migraines, Pancreatic Pain, CDC Guidelines
Pain and Weather—A Cloudy Issue
Phulchand Prithvi Raj, MD, Pioneer in Pain Management, Dies at 84
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Preventing Chronic Overuse Sports Injuries
Sports-Related Pain: Topical Treatments
The “Missing Link” in the Physiology of Pain: Glial Cells

Pain and Weather—A Cloudy Issue

Numerous peer-reviewed studies have attempted to validate a correlation between patient pain and meteorological conditions, but documenting any sort of repeatable linkage remains a scientific enigma.
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Rather than collecting data retrospectively from a weather station, the case-crossover method records the weather parameters within individual microclimates. Participants function as their own controls by recording the case window (meteorological variables at the time of pain onset) and the control window (weather variables one week earlier and one month earlier); consequently, the case-crossover method mitigates the time-invariant
factors that may confound other research methods.31

Second, it seems that overall, weather has little deterministic impact on widespread chronic pain, at least as a phenomenon that can be generalized to chronic pain caused by any number of changing meteorological variables. Studies that typically report the strongest correlation between meteorological phenomena and onset of pain are often poorly designed, utilizing self-report mail surveys and small sample sizes, not blinding participants to the research hypotheses, or relying on subjective memory recall.8,18,45,47 More robust studies often report either no association between weather and pain,9,28 or if such an association exists, it is only under specific conditions.10,15,23,29,31,42

Third, the debate over the extent to which weather affects pain intensity is far from over. Many experts who have devoted decades of work to medical climatology attest that certain meteorological factors—such as changing barometric pressure or temperature—do aggravate pain, including Dr. Robert Jamison, Harvard Medical School’s professor of anesthesiology and psychiatry.19 Other experts, however, including renowned cognitive psychologist and Nobel Prize laureate Amos Tversky, doubt a physiological basis linking weather to chronic pain.9

If such a relationship does exist, it is likely not directly causal, but may reflect a complex, multifactorial interaction of other variables. At the same time, there may be some credence to the claim that some individuals with chronic pain are more sensitive to meteorological changes than others.30

Fourth, it is clear that more research is required to clarify the inconsistency of the data and explore other medical conditions that elicit chronic pain. Few, if any, peer-reviewed published journals have reported how weather may affect pain caused by systemic lupus erythematosus, carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetic neuropathy, advanced stage cancers, or endometriosis. Further research with a focus on wider populations and utilizing the case-crossover methodology may help define which types of weather factors are deterministically correlated to specific medical conditions.

Last updated on: May 17, 2016
Continue Reading:
Letters to the Editor: Sleep Apnea, SPG Blocks for Migraines, Pancreatic Pain, CDC Guidelines

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