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No link found between rainfall and joint pain

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New research published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ adds to the growing evidence against the commonly held belief that joint pain gets worse when it’s raining.

In a study led by Anupam Jena, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, researchers compared daily rainfall data with outpatient visits to a general physician for joint or back pain for over 1.5 million Americans (aged 65 or older) insured by Medicare, between 2008 and 2012.

Of the 11,673,392 outpatient visits in the five-year period, 2,095,761 (18%) occurred on rainy days.

After taking account of several potentially influential factors, such as patient age, sex, ethnicity, and chronic conditions (including rheumatoid arthritis), the researchers found no association between the proportion of joint or back pain related visits and rainfall on the day of the appointment or the amount of rainfall during that week or the preceding week.

For example, joint or back pain rates during weeks with seven rainy days were similar to weeks with zero rainy days, The BMJ said.

There were also no differences in the relation between rainfall and joint or back pain between geographic regions, age groups, or patients with and without rheumatoid arthritis.

Limitations of the study include the lack of information on disease severity and use of over-the-counter painkillers.

However, the study authors conclude that in this analysis “no relation was found between rainfall and outpatient visits for joint or back pain.”

A similar study earlier this year looked at Google searches about joint pain and found that rain actually reduced search volumes for knee and hip pain.

The researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine and Harvard University said their findings suggest that people’s activity level is more likely than the weather itself to cause pain that spurs online searches.