Fact or old wives’ tale? A change in the weather can make bones and joints ache. A new study has an answer: old wives’ tale.
Other studies have looked at whether an increase in humidity, rainfall or barometric pressure can bring on pain, but never with as much data as in this newest study, in BMJ. Researchers looked at medical records of 11,673,392 Medicare outpatient visits. Matching the dates of the visits to local weather reports, they found that 2,095,761 of them occurred on rainy days.
Using probability estimates, they predicted how many of those visits were for a condition related to joint or back pain.
After controlling for age, sex, race and various chronic conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, they found that more visits for bone and joint pain happened on dry days than wet ones — 6.39 percent for dry and 6.35 percent for wet days, a difference so small as to have no clinical significance.
“The weather is not causing joint pain,” said the lead author, Anupam B. Jena, an associate professor of health care policy at Harvard. “But when it’s raining and you have joint pain you attribute it to the weather. When it’s sunny and you have joint pain, you don’t. People get upset when you say this.” He acknowledged a link still might be found with a larger and more detailed analysis.
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