Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Long before Shakespeare, vagaries in the weather have been blamed for flare-ups of joint pain. The rheumatic curse seems to redouble on a cold, wet day…or is it a hot, dry one?
But a new study from The George Institute casts doubt that we can ever really “blame it on the weather”.
In every place I have ever worked, patients will swear their knee or back pain has eased since they moved to that town, crediting their temporary cure to the local conditions. Curiously, this remains true regardless of where I am working at the time, whether at the bottom or the top of Australia: from the windswept southern coast to the burning central deserts or humid tropics.
Are rainfall, humidity and temperature really affecting my patient’s joints, or is there a less exciting interpretation? Perhaps joint pain is a randomly relapsing condition, and we humans love attributing causation whenever two unrelated events roughly coincide.
Previously, researchers at the George Institute published a study where 345 Australians with confirmed knee osteoarthritis recorded their pain scores. No correlation whatsoever was found between pain flares and the local weather conditions (temperature, precipitation, humidity, barometric pressure).
This negative study, which countered such a long-held belief, not surprisingly copped plenty on social media. Contrarian anecdotes flew in faster than a cold southerly over Bass Strait.
So other researchers decided to see if they could replicate the findings in different circumstances. Continue reading