Smartphone App May Help Doctors Find Link Between Weather And Arthritis


What claims to be the world’s first smartphone-based study seeks to answer the thousands-year-old question of whether the weather affects pain in individuals with arthritis as well as other conditions.

Launched on Tuesday, the study can involve anyone in the United Kingdom aged 17 years or older, and with chronic pain or arthritis.

The research called Cloudy with a Chance of Pain will be conducted this year using smartphone platform uMotif, which participants will use for recording how they feel. Their phone’s GPS, on the other hand, will automatically collect local weather status.

Will Dixon, director of the Arthritis Research UK Center for Epidemiology of the University of Manchester, said that while the link between weather and pain has been probed for more than 2,000 years, it is only with today’s technology that it can be known and explained.

For him, it’s not just about soliciting data from people, but also inviting their ideas on the relationship between pain and weather.

“We will be running a big citizen science experiment where anyone can explore the data and try and spot patterns and relationships in the data,” explained Dixon.

Even people without pain can participate in the research, which will end by January 2017, by looking at the information and sending in their ideas.

The researchers will analyze the results and hopefully come up with a pain forecast that can help people better structure their weekly routine.

For 36-year-old Carolyn Gamble of Manchester, the weather has a hand on her pain level.

“When it’s hot and humid, I suffer, but equally when it’s cold and damp,” shared Gamble, who is afflicted with a genetic type of arthritis that mainly strikes on her neck and hips.

According to Stephen Simpson of Arthritis Research UK, while arthritis patients typically believe that weather changes affect the pain they are going through, science currently has no proof to support the association. The organization’s director of research and programs expressed support for the smartphone study to come up with a conclusion on the matter.

“[Participants] will be helping to answer a question that even the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, couldn’t resolve, and which hasn’t been resolved since,” added Dixon.

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