Sept. 9, 2016 -- Evidence is emerging that bad weather really can affect you, as thousands of smartphone users reported in an experiment that rain and clouds make their pain worse.
Using a phone app, the 'Cloudy with a Chance of Pain' project has recruited 9,000 people in the U.K. with chronic pain who input their symptoms daily. The app automatically records the weather using their phones' GPS and sends the data back to the researchers.
The study is the idea of Will Dixon, MD, PhD, a scientist at The University of Manchester and a hospital doctor at Salford Royal, where he treats patients with arthritis.
"In almost every clinic, one of my patients will tell me that their joints are better or worse because of the weather,” he says. “And yet researchers have never worked out whether this relationship truly exists."
The study is only at the halfway stage, but Dixon has announced some of the early results at the British Science Festival this week.
The results look specifically at people living in 3 cities: Leeds, Norwich, and London. They show that as the number of sunny days rose from February to April, the amount of time people felt severe pain fell. But a wet June saw an increase in the length of time people had severe pain.
"Once the link is proven, people will have the confidence to plan their activities in accordance with the weather,” Dixon says. “In addition, understanding how weather influences pain will allow medical researchers to explore new pain interventions and treatments.
"To work out the details of how weather influences pain, we need as many people as possible to participate in the study and track their symptoms on their smartphone.”
People can also use the app to review the data collected so far and see whether other peoples' experience of pain on certain days matches their own symptoms. Currently, the project is only open to people in the U.K.
Arthritis Research UK is helping fund the project.
"Many people with arthritis report that changes in weather affect the level of pain they experience, but to date there has been no scientific evidence to support this link,” says Stephen Simpson, PhD, director of research at the organization.
"Although this study is not yet complete, it is potentially exciting that the interim results indicate there might be correlation between the two," he says. "The more participants we have in the study, the stronger the final data will be, so we're urging people to take part and share their experiences via the Cloudy app."