Feel It In Your Bones? Back Pain Not Linked with Weather

A ban rubs his lower back, as if in pain
(Image credit: Evgeny Atamanenko/Shutterstock.com)

Some people with joint and muscle pain say that changes in the weather trigger their symptoms, but a new study contradicts this belief, at least for those with low back pain.

Researchers analyzed information from nearly 1,000 people in Sydney, Australia, who went to the doctor within a few days of experiencing sudden (acute) lower back pain.

The researchers then compared weather conditions at the time people experienced back pain to weather conditions one week and one month prior, when the participants were pain-free. The researchers obtained weather data for three regions in Sydney from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology. [5 Surprising Facts About Pain]

There was no link between episodes of back pain and the temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, wind direction and precipitation in the city, the researchers said.

Higher wind speeds and wind gusts did slightly increase the chances of experiencing back pain, but this effect was so small that it likely would not have a meaningful impact on patient's lives, the researchers said.

“Our findings refute previously held beliefs that certain common weather conditions increase risk of lower back pain,” study researcher Daniel Steffens, of the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney, said in a statement.

Most previous studies looking at the link between weather conditions and back pain have not been rigorous in their methods, for example, they have relied upon participants' memory of the weather instead of using objective measures, Steffens said.

The researchers noted that Sydney has a temperate climate, and the findings may not apply to regions with more extreme weather. More research is also needed to see if weather conditions affect symptoms of other diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, Steffens said.

The study is published today (July 10) in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

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Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.