Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc.

Weather patterns associated with pain in chronic-pain sufferers

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The belief that weather influences people's health has been prevalent for millennia. Recent studies on the relationship between weather and pain for those who suffer from chronic pain remain indeterminate, with some studies finding strong effects and others finding no effects; most studies face limitations to their study design or dataset size. To address these limitations, a U.K.-wide smartphone study Cloudy with a Chance of Pain was conducted over 15 months with 10, 584 citizen scientists who suffer from chronic pain, producing the largest dataset both in duration and number of participants. Compared to other similar citizen-science studies, our retention of participants was substantially better, with 15% still entering data nearly every day after 200 days. Analysis of the dataset using synoptic climatology and compositing revealed the daily weather associated with a prevalence of high pain and low pain across the population. Specifically, our results indicate that the top 10% of days with a high percentage of participants (about 20%) experiencing a pain event (represented here by a +1 change or greater in their pain level on a 5-point scale; referred to as a high-pain day) were associated with below-normal pressure, above-normal humidity, higher precipitation rate, and stronger wind. In contrast, the bottom 10% of days with a small percentage of participants (about 10%) experiencing a pain event (a low-pain day) were associated with above-normal pressure, below-normal humidity, lower precipitation rate, and weaker wind. Thus, these synoptic weather patterns support the beliefs of many participants who said that low pressure - and its accompanying weather - was associated with a pain event.