When the winter brings rain and cold, hospital outpatients multiply their visits with people who, apparently, suffer joint or lumbar ailments. According to new research from the Harvard Medical School , this should not be the case, since there is no relationship between “bad weather” and pain.
Previous to the recent study, different investigations had been carried out on this same phenomenon. However, the results are very different from each other and erroneously the claim that climate and discomfort go hand in hand was valid.
Anupam Jena, from the Department of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School, has been responsible for directing the project, combining two sets of data: the first includes information about primary care visits for joint or back pain; and, the second, specific data on daily rainfall levels by geographic postal code.
According to the first method, which analyzed a large data collection between 2008 and 2012, Americans of age advanced (65 and older) conducted more than 11 million visits to primary care. The consultations increased considerably in rainy periods compared to the driest periods.
“No matter how we look at the data, we did not see any correlation between rain and doctor visits for joint and back pain,” Jena says. “It is difficult to show that it is negative, but in this avalanche of data, if there was a clinically significant increase in pain, we would have expected to find at least a small, although significant, sign of this phenomenon, but it was not,” he adds.
To bad weather, good back
Given the different hypotheses that were raised during the investigation, the analysis of patients older than 65 years finally showed that there is no relationship between rain and outpatient visits due to joint or back pain.
The approach allowed the effective comparison of joint and lumbar pain rates between periods with and without precipitation within the same geographical region, addressing the concern that pain rates can differ systematically in different regions with varying levels of rainfall.
In general, 6.35% of office visits included pain reports on rainy days, compared to 6.39% on dry days.
According to Jena, the power of the brain is the key.
The mind has a great facility to create patterns and establish links. So, if you expect your knee to hurt when it rains and it does not, you forget about it, but if it hurts and the blame comes from the rain, this relationship tends to stay etched in the mind.
“As doctors, we must be sensitive to the things our patients tell us, pain is pain, with or without rain, but it is important to know that, on a clinical level, joint pain does not seem to flow with the weather,” he explains.