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Osteoarthritis: Is it Worse in the Winter?

Osteoarthritis: Is it Worse in the Winter?
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There’s a good chance that you’ve heard someone blame their arthritis pain on the winter cold. At first glance, this might sound like a credible complaint. But is this common accusation actually accurate?

According to a 2017 report, the answer to this question is “no.” Reviewing data from roughly 1,350 participants, the report’s authors found no concrete link between winter chills and osteoarthritis pain.

Tracking Temperature and Pain

The researchers based their findings on data gleaned from two separate studies. Specifically, on study focused on approximately 1,000 back pain sufferers, while the other quizzed roughly 350 individuals living with knee arthritis.

For the weather part of the equation, the research team turned to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, which provided temperature readings for specific time periods. Thanks to this source, the study was able to check the temperature on the day the participants first noticed their pain. Furthermore, they also had access to temperature data both one week before and one month before the onset of their subjects’ reported pain.

All in the Mind?

The authors found that back/knee pain could not be blamed on temperature – or humidity, precipitation, air pressure or wind direction for that matter. They contend that the issue might be mental; in other words, people could tend to devote more attention to their pain on days when the weather is less than ideal.

Lead researcher Chris Maher (a professor at The George Institute for Global Health) stated that “the belief that pain and inclement weather are linked dates back to Roman times. But our research suggests this belief may be based on the fact that people recall events that confirm their pre-existing views. Human beings are very susceptible so it’s easy to see why we might only take note of pain on the days when it’s cold and rainy outside, but discount the days when they have symptoms but the weather is mild and sunny.”

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