People who think they can sense when the weather is changing because they suddenly feel pain in their joints or muscles are wrong, say Australian scientists.
The researchers studied 993 people living in Sydney who visited their doctors complaining of pain in the lower back, and analyzed meteorological data from the dates they visited, and also a week and a month before they went to their doctors.
The study revealed no link connecting back pain episodes and temperature, air pressure, relative humidity or rainfall in Sydney, the researchers say.
Gusty winds or winds of higher speeds might slightly raise the risks of episodes, but not to a degree considered "clinically significant," they say.
"Our findings refute previously held beliefs that certain common weather conditions increase risk of lower back pain,” University of Sydney study researcher Daniel Steffens says.
The belief that the weather can affect or exacerbate painful conditions is widespread and his been so since ancient times; even the Greek physician Hippocrates suggested such a link as early as 400 B.C.
"Many patients believe that weather impacts their pain symptoms," Steffens says.
However, he says, most previous studies attempting to discover a link have relied on imprecise patient recall regarding weather conditions rather than rigorous use of recorded meteorological data.
While the study concentrated on back pain, more research would be needed to gauge any effect of weather on other diseases such as osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis, Steffens says.
Other factors such as how people move about and how they attempt to lift large, heavy objects, or levels of stress or fatigue, are more likely to trigger aching backs than a change in the weather, he says.
However, he acknowledges, Sydney generally enjoys temperate weather, so the findings might not apply if the study were to be repeated in regions with weather that is more extreme.
"We had an open mind on the issue," he says.
Still, he says, the rigorous study using data provided by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology strongly suggests there's no increased risk of back pain that can be attributed to weather.
Low back problems are one of the most common health complaints of people, with the World Health Organization estimating that a full third of the globe's population finds itself afflicted by an aching back or some related musculoskeletal condition at any particular time.
Musculoskeletal conditions involve bone, ligaments, muscles, tendons or nerves.