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22-12-2017 | Epidemiology | News

Rainfall may not be linked to joint and back pain

medwireNews: Study results published in the Christmas edition of The BMJ suggest that there is no association between rainfall and the incidence of conditions related to joint or back pain among older people in the USA.

“Many people believe that changes in weather conditions […] lead to worsening symptoms of joint or back pain, particularly among those with arthritis,” write Anupam Jena (Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA) and study co-authors.

Using a multivariable model to analyze Medicare claims data from 11,673,392 outpatient visits by people aged 65 years or older, the team estimated that 6.35% of clinic attendees received a diagnosis of a condition related to joint or back pain – including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis, spondylosis, and invertebral disc disorders – on rainy days, whereas 6.39% of patients received such a diagnosis on dry days.

Although this difference was statistically significant, Jena and colleagues note that it was “in the opposite anticipated direction and was so small that it is unlikely to be clinically meaningful.”

Furthermore, in subgroup analyses, there was no significant association between rainfall and joint or back pain among people of different age groups, patients with and without RA, and those living in different geographic regions.

These findings suggest “no relation between rainfall and outpatient visits for joint or back pain related problems,” say the researchers.

However, they acknowledge that the study “lacked detail on disease severity to definitively exclude higher rates of joint or back pain related to rainfall,” and that other weather conditions such as humidity, temperature, and barometric pressure were not taken into account.

And the team concludes: “An association may still exist, and larger, more detailed data on disease severity and pain would be useful to support the validity of this commonly held belief.”

By Claire Barnard

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare. © 2017 Springer Healthcare part of the Springer Nature group

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