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Harvard study finds bad weather does not worsen conditions

 

Arthritis sufferers often say their joints are more painful when it is damp and cold outside.

But this may just be a myth, as twinges in hips and knees are actually more likely on a sunny day.

The argument has raged for years over bad weather make joints stiffer, or if it just puts people in a worse mood so they are more likely to notice pain.

A study involving Harvard University now appears to settle the debate.

Twinges in hips and knees are more likely on a sunny day, US scientists have claimed 

Twinges in hips and knees are more likely on a sunny day, US scientists have claimed 

Twinges in hips and knees are more likely on a sunny day, US scientists have claimed 

It found, based on internet searches for arthritis, knee and hip pain over five years in 45 cities, that people in fact suffer more when it is hot.

Damp and cold weather may actually help symptoms of arthritis, the US researchers say, by keeping people inside and off their feet.

People are most likely to seek help for joint pain when it is warmer because they are more active, which might put extra pressure on the body.

The study, led by the University of Washington, is published in the journal PLOS One.

Lead author Dr Scott Telfer, from the university’s department of orthopaedics and sports medicine, said: ‘You hear people with arthritis say they can tell when the weather is changing.

‘But with past studies there have only been vague associations, nothing very concrete, and our findings align with those.’

The researchers used internet searches because these are increasingly people’s first port of call when they suffer health problems.

While older people, who tend to suffer arthritis, are less likely to use the internet, there has been a recent rise in ‘silver surfers’ seeking help for their ailments online.

The study’s findings show searches for joint pain and arthritis rise as the temperature gets higher, based on a range from -5C (23F) to 30C (86F).

The study, led by the University of Washington, found damp and cold weather may actually help symptoms of arthritis

The study, led by the University of Washington, found damp and cold weather may actually help symptoms of arthritis

The study, led by the University of Washington, found damp and cold weather may actually help symptoms of arthritis

Knee pain searches peaked at just below 23C (73F) and were less frequent at higher temperatures, while hip pain searches peaked at 28C (83F) and then tailed off.

Rainfall dampened search volumes for both types of pain.

The authors state that people may also move less when it is raining outside, based on Google search results.

Dr Telfer said: ‘We haven’t found any direct mechanism that links ambient temperature with pain.

‘What we think is much more likely explanation is the fact that people are more active on nice days, so more prone to have overuse and acute injuries from that and to search online for relevant information.’

The study also gathered search results for the unrelated symptom of stomach pain, to ensure their results were not influenced by external factors, such as fewer people going online in good weather.

Natalie Carter, head of research liaison and evaluation at charity Arthritis Research UK, said: ‘There is a lot of received wisdom around whether weather affects joint pain and although the weather may affect the symptoms of arthritis, it won’t cause the condition or affect the way it develops.

‘We welcome any study which can help to increase knowledge in this area, as the knowledge will help lead us to better pain management.’

However its own study, called Cloudy with a Chance of Pain, suggests in preliminary findings from people living in Norwich, Leeds and London, that rainy days and reduced levels of sunshine do lead to greater joint pain.

Previous studies have mixed results, with some experts suggesting changes in temperature and humidity influence the expansion and contraction of different tissues in the joints, causing pain.

Low temperatures may also increase the stickiness of synovial fluid which lubricates the joints, making them stiffer and perhaps more sensitive to pain.

However it is also suggested that weather affects mood, which changes our perception of pain. 

 

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