Most of us have grown up hearing our favorite grandparents complain about their joints hurting in the rain. You might have wondered: Why do your joints hurt in the rain? Is there a possible correlation between the change in weather and someone's aches and pains? According to recent science, sadly, it seems that our elders are a bit mistaken about the alleged connection with their arthritis flaring up and the rainfall of the day.
That's right: According to an Australian study published last week, there is no correlation between the weather and osteoarthritis and back pain — and therefore no actual scientific reason your joints hurt more when it rains. Like the idea that going outside with wet hair causes colds or that urine removes the pain from a jellyfish sting, the notion that rain causes your joints to act up is an old wive's tale that's been repeated in our society for so long, we accept it as truth.
For the study, researchers asked 345 participants with an average age of 62 to log onto a website every time they experienced pain for more than eight hours at a time. Then, the researchers connected those login sessions to the weather at the time, taking into account factors like the temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, and precipitation as reported by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
To make their comparison, the researchers also recorded the weather on days participants did not log into the website, meaning they did not experience pain for more than eight hours. Ultimately, researchers found no correlation between the weather and reported pain from patients.
So, why do people tend to believe they experience a flare-up when it's raining? When ideas such as the "it's wet, therefore my joints will ache" one become social norms, it's easy to believe and accept them. It's also likely that many people who experience pain seek answers for where their pain is coming from, and at least a change in weather offers some rationale and comfort in a situation that might otherwise feel out of one's control.
Something worth noting when discussing this study, though, is this: When we talk about pain, especially chronic pain or "invisible" pain, it's important that we don't stop believing people just because we don't have "proof" that their pain exists. In today's world, it can be a real struggle for people who live with chronic conditions or chronic pain to be taken seriously or to get the proper medical care that they need.
This study therefore shouldn't be used as a means of telling someone they are not in pain, or that their pain is just "in their head"; rather, it should be usef to dispel a common notion that is not actually rooted in science. The pain people are reporting to feel, however, deserves to be taken seriously. It just likely doesn't have anything to do with the weather.