Blog | Thursday, July 10, 2014

QD: News Every Day--Weather may not be to blame for acute low back pain

Sudden, acute episodes of low back pain were not linked to weather conditions such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction, or rain, a study found.

People with musculoskeletal pain believe their symptoms are influenced by the weather, which previous studies have shown may increase symptoms in patients with chronic pain conditions.

So, researchers conducted a case-crossover study of 993 consecutive patients presenting to general medical practitioners, physiotherapists, chiropractors, and pharmacists for treatment of an episode of sudden onset, acute, lower back pain in Sydney, Australia, from October 2011 through November 2012. Weather conditions 1 week and 1 month before the onset of pain from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology were compared to the time patients first noticed back pain.

Results appeared online July 10 in Arthritis Care & Research.

Temperature, relative humidity, air pressure, wind direction and precipitation showed no association with onset of back pain, researchers reported. Higher wind speed (OR, 1.17; 95% CI, 1.04 to 1.32; P=0.01; for an increase of 11 km/h) and wind gust (OR, 1.14; 95% CI, 1.02 to 1.28; P=0.02; for an increase of 14 km/h) increased the odds of pain onset. While statistically significant, the magnitude of the increase was very small and likely not clinically important, researchers noted.

“Interestingly, the popular belief about temperature, precipitation, air pressure, wind direction, humidity and its association with back pain seems to be stronger than the data would support,” the authors wrote. “It should be noted however, that there may be musculoskeletal conditions other than low back pain that may be affected by weather parameters and this is an important area for further research.”