Meteopathy and chronic pain, or how changing weather affects our well-being


Could sudden changes in the weather be the cause of our chronic headaches and joint pain? As weather conditions become more unstable, more and more people are reporting increasing complaints. Is there a scientific explanation for this phenomenon? Here’s what you need to know.

Changing weather and our reactions

It’s no secret that the weather can have a subjective effect on your mood. There are studies that show a link between weather conditions and the perception of life satisfaction. It has been found, for example, that increased precipitation can reduce life satisfaction, moderate temperatures can promote a greater sense of happiness and reduce fatigue and stress, while temperature extremes can have the opposite effect. In addition, there is the phenomenon of meteopathy, in that humidity, reduced atmospheric pressure and changes in temperature can intensify perceived pain and other health complaints.

Research on the relationship between meteorological conditions and Internet search patterns indicates a possible influence of weather on the frequency of search phrases related to ailments such as migraine, hip pain, knee pain and joint pain. These observations suggest that our online queries may be shaped in part by current weather conditions, potentially reflecting our body’s physiological responses to changes in the environment.

In the medical context, there is a proposal to create specialized weather forecasts that would help users predict the risk of ailments such as migraines or other chronic diseases based on weather data. In a survey conducted by the University of Georgia, as many as 70 percent. respondents expressed support for taking action based on such forecasts. Nevertheless, the question remains about the full reliability of such forecasts: does the weather really have a direct impact on our health, or is it a more complex interaction between different factors that still needs to be understood more deeply?

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pic. zelmab/envato elements

Weather variability and headaches

A study published in 2000 by W. J. Becker analyzed the health diaries of 75 patients from southern Canada, a region frequently affected by chinook – warm winds that are locally known to cause headaches. The aim of the study was to investigate whether changing weather conditions affect the incidence of migraines. The results indicated that migraine sufferers experienced an increased frequency of headaches before, during and after the onset of windy weather.

Nevertheless, subsequent studies on the effects of weather conditions on migraines have yielded conflicting results. Some have found no clear causal relationship between atmospheric conditions and migraines, while others have identified a correlation between high atmospheric pressure and the occurrence of migraines. In addition, other studies have found minimal effects of weather variation on headaches, and still others have suggested that obese people may be more susceptible to migraines during hot weather.

These disparate results, along with the variety of research methods used, indicate that the question of how weather conditions affect migraines remains incompletely understood. Researchers note that genetic factors may also play a role in the onset of migraines, further complicating the understanding of the phenomenon. Therefore, there is a need for further, more detailed research to better understand the complexity of this problem.

Weather and its impact on joint pain

The issue of the effect of weather conditions on joint pain is complex, and the results of studies on the subject are mixed. A study of men and women aged 49-90 years was conducted between 1998 and 2002 to assess the relationship between weather variation and pain intensity in people with osteoarthritis in various parts of the body. The results of this study showed little or no correlation between weather variables and pain in the context of osteoarthritis. However, a 2023 meta-analysis reviewing 14 studies found a correlation between neuromuscular complaints and weather conditions. The disparity in results underscores the need for further studies that can provide important information on the impact of weather on osteoarthritis and its treatment.

It is now recognized that changes in barometric pressure can affect joint fluids, causing them to contract or expand, which in turn leads to inflammation by stretching or compressing tendons, muscles and other tissues. In addition, joint fluids are sensitive to cold temperatures, which cause them to thicken, which in turn can lead to joint stiffness. The situation is complicated by humidity and precipitation, which are often associated with low barometric pressure; many patients report an increase in pain during rainy weather.

Weather variability and our health: does it really matter?

Although there is some evidence of a link between weather changes and well-being and chronic pain, there is an urgent need for further research to fully understand these relationships. The results so far are often contradictory, which only underscores the complexity of the phenomenon under study and points to the need for more detailed analysis. Continued research in this area has potentially important implications for the development of new treatments and pain management methods that take into account the impact of atmospheric variables. A more thorough understanding of these mechanisms may ultimately contribute to the development of more personalized approaches to health and well-being that are tailored to individual patients.

Photo. main: NOAA/Unsplash

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