It’s official: no link found between joint pain and rainy weather

Dampness has no impact on aches and pains, Harvard researchers have concluded

The bottom line is that painful joints and sore backs may very well be unreliable forecasters. Photograph: Getty

The bottom line is that painful joints and sore backs may very well be unreliable forecasters. Photograph: Getty

 

The association between aches and pains and damp weather is all in the mind, doctors have concluded.

For millennia people have been blaming the rain for all kinds of ailments, real or imagined.

Research carried out by Harvard Medical School has found no evidence of such a link.

It took a novel “big data” approach which links insurance claims from millions of doctor’s visits in the United States with daily rainfall totals from thousands of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather stations.

A total of 11 million visits to doctors were analysed and compared with the weather for each specific visit.

The result were emphatic. There was statistically no difference between the number of people reporting aches and pains on rainy days (6.35 per cent) compared to the 6.39 per cent of patients who reported them on dry days.

There was also no link between incidences of rheumatoid arthritis, one of the most common ailments associated with the damp, and rainy weather.

“No matter how we looked at the data, we didn’t see any correlation between rainfall and physician visits for joint pain or back pain,” said Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Health Care Policy.

“If there was a clinically significant increase in pain, we would have expected to find at least some small, but significant, sign of the effect. We didn’t.

“The bottom line is that painful joints and sore backs may very well be unreliable forecasters.”

The research team asked a variety of questions: Did more patients seek care for back pain or joint pain when it rained or following periods of rainy weather? Were patients who went to the doctor for other reasons more likely to also report aching knees or backs around rainy days?

What if there were several rainy days in a row? The answers to all of these questions showed no meaningful link between joint pain and rainy weather.