For years, people have claimed that episodes of back and joint pain are triggered by weather changes. However, researchers are putting their foot down, reiterating that weather in no way plays a role in symptom development associated with back or joint pain.
Changes in the weather include levels of precipitation, air pressure, humidity and temperature, as well as wind direction.
"The belief that pain and inclement weather are linked dates back to the Roman times," said study author Chris Maher.
However, the researchers' work suggests that the belief is possibly based on people recalling events confirming pre-existing views, such as only noting pain on days when it's rainy and cold outside but disregarding days when symptoms exist but the weather is sunny.
For the study, the researchers worked with nearly 1,000 people with pain in their lower backs and about 350 others with osteoarthritis in their knees, and gathered weather information from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. They compared weather conditions during the time the study participants first felt pain and a week and a month before pain began as a control measure.
The results the researchers got reinforced an earlier study involving back pain and erratic weather. Maher led this earlier study. Maher said people being adamant that severe weather conditions made their symptoms worse was what spurred the researchers to carry out the new study using data from new participants. And like in the earlier study, their current work revealed that there was no connection between pain and bad weather.
Manuel Ferreira, who led the current study, said people suffering from back or joint pain should not dwell too much on the association they think exists between their condition and the weather because weather changes do not influence symptoms. Rather, they should direct their attention toward factors they can control, like pain prevention and management.
A study published in December warned women that regularly taking painkillers ups their risk of hearing loss. According to it, taking just two paracetamol or ibuprofen pills weekly over the course of six years is enough to lead to loss of hearing. The study is one of many that have called into question the safety of using non-prescription painkillers for long periods of time, particularly because there exists the tendency for people to not use medication as directed.
Chronic pain can be problematic so it's not unheard of for many people to go through extremes to find relief. One of those is Esther Gokhale, an acupuncturist from California who started having severe back pain after having her first child due to a herniated disc.
When Western medicine failed to alleviate her condition, Gokhale traveled to Portugal and Ecuador and discovered that people living in these countries' fishing towns had nearly no back pain cases and had spines shaped differently than Americans. Where Americans had S-shaped spines, the fishing town folk had J-shaped ones.
Researchers have yet to put Gokhale's theory to the test but a neurosurgeon said there are explanations why Americans have S-shaped spines: one, most Americans are heavier and belly fat puts weight forward that curves the spine, and two, a lot of Americans have sedentary lifestyles that lead to poor posture.