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Every rheumatologist knows and every rheumatic patient woes about the havoc weather inflicts on joint pains. Yet, research on this issue has seldom confirmed these impressions. A novel new look has shown by linking online search terms with published weather conditions that increasing climate temperatures increased rates of hip and knee pain (searches), while precipitation had no effect.
Researchers explored this issue by linking online search terms and behavior (as a surrogate for patient symptomatology) with local weather data for temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, and precipitation from 50 US metropolitan areas.
They found that for temperatures between -5°C and 30°C, search volumes for hip pain increased by 12 index points, and knee pain increased by 18 index points. Precipitation had a negative effect on search volumes for these terms. Higher temperatures >30°C, were linked with a modest reduction in arthritis related pain searches (-7 index points). Such patterns were not observed with pain searches unrelated to the musculoskeletal system (e.g., stomach pain).
The authors postulated that these observations may be related to relative changes in physical activity levels associated with meteorological conditions.