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Can Retiring to a warmer climate really help your pain?


Weather and its effect on pain

Back pain is really common. According to the World Health Organisation, it seems one in three of us will suffer from back pain at some point in our lives; it is one of the world’s most common conditions.

But while there are lots of triggers and causes for back pain, evidently bad weather is not one of them.

Recent research at the George Institute for Global Health at Sydney University in Australia has shown that acute episodes of lower back pain are definitely not linked to the weather.

Earlier findings, including those reported by the Arthritis Care and Research Journal in America, have indicated that the risk of low back pain can slightly increase with higher wind speed and wind gusts. Earlier studies have also shown that cold and humid weather can increase symptoms in patients with chronic conditions.

However, according to Dr Daniel Steffens of the George Institute, there had been few full studies specifically investigating weather and pain.

His study group looked at nearly 1000 patients seen at primary care clinics in Sydney. Weather data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorogology was sourced at the same time, and the level of back pain in the patients was also carefully recorded.

The levels of pain and temperature, air pressure, humidity, wind direction and rain were all carefully correlated and checked and the results showed that there was no direct association.

“Our findings refute previously held beliefs that certain common weather conditions increase the risk of lower back pain,” said Dr Steffens.

However, the results had some grey areas, including statistics showing a slight increase in the chances of lower back pain during higher wind speed and wind gusts.

Dr Steffens said further investigation on the influence of weather on symptoms associated with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis is needed.

Research is also going on in other parts of the world including America.

The Johns Hopkins Health Alert, from the respected Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, has earlier reported a study that looked at the relationship between weather and arthritis pain. The patients in this study all lived in Cordoba City in Argentina which has a generally warm climate, and the results showed that all patients experienced more pain on days when the temperature was low; with humidity and high pressure also having an effect.

Another study looked at a group of people suffering from osteoarthritis. They all lived in a warm climate as well but no association was found between changing weather conditions apart from a slight association between rising barometric pressure and hand pain in women. A theory here was that a drop in air pressure, which often accompanies cold, damp weather, allows tissues in the body to expand a little to fill space, meaning that already inflamed tissue can swell a little to cause increased arthritis pain.

Different studies indicate that pain thresholds drop in colder damp weather rather than pain increasing.

Certainly many retired people have relocated overseas to warmer climates because, along with other reasons, the weather helps them cope with arthritis and other painful conditions. Whether this will be proven or scientifically disputed by future research is not known, but it is certainly good to see that robust studies in this area are being undertaken by some of the top research institutions in the world.


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The above article is part of the features section of called laterlife interest. laterlife interest contains a variety of articles of interest for visitors to written by a number of experienced and new journalists.

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