It is nearly 2,500 years since the Greek physician Hippocrates noticed a connection between pain and the weather, but scientists have shown that it may well be true.
Researchers at Manchester University spent months tracking thousands of people who suffer from conditions like arthritis, back pain and migraines to see if their symptoms got worse in good or bad weather.
The participants who were based in Leeds, Norwich and London – reported that as the number of sunny days increased from February to June, the amount of time they experienced severe pain fell.
I think there is definitely a possible link. In terms of physiology, it makes sense that air pressure, which can affect weather, would influence pain – particularly in arthritis.
However when there was a period of wet weather in June and fewer hours of sunlight, the level of pain increased once again.
Scientists think that it could be the fall in pressure behind the phenomenon which causes fluid in the joints to shift. Low pressure also brings rain, so people may be mistaking the downpour for the cause of their increased discomfort.
The 18-month project, called Cloudy With A Chance Of Pain, is currently at the halfway stage. Participants log on to an app and record their symptoms. The app also logs where they are and the exact weather at the time they enter the information.
Professor Will Dixon, who treats people with arthritis at Salford Royal hospital, is leading the research.
He said: “We have long heard anecdotal evidence about how people with chronic conditions say they suffer more when the weather is bad – a lot of my patients tell me that they can predict the weather based on how they are feeling.
“But amazingly there has never really been any real research into it – even though that around 28 million people in the UK suffer from some form of chronic pain.
“I think there is definitely a possible link. In terms of physiology, it makes sense that air pressure, which can affect weather, would influence pain – particularly in arthritis.”
However, while Professor Dixon is pleased with the study’s progress to date, he hopes that more people will take part – and the findings could help manage their conditions better.
He added: “Once the link is proven, people will have the confidence to plan their activities in accordance with the weather.
“In addition, understanding how weather influences pain will allow medical researchers to explore new pain interventions and treatments.
“To work out the details of how weather influences pain, we need as many people as possible to participate in the study and track their symptoms on their smartphone.”
The initial findings are being reported at the British Science Festival, which takes place in Swansea this week.