A person sits down and grabs his knee in pain.
By looking at the week’s weather forecast, people with chronic pain can better determine when to tackle physically demanding projects. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Your great granddaddy may have been right about the weather worsening his arthritis.

People with chronic pain conditions are more likely to suffer pain on humid and windy days, according to a study that used smartphones to assess pain-weather connections.

“The results of this study could be important for patients in the future for two reasons,” said study leader Will Dixon, from the Center for Epidemiology Versus Arthritis, University of Manchester, in England.

“Given we can forecast the weather, it may be possible to develop a pain forecast knowing the relationship between weather and pain. This would allow people who suffer from chronic pain to plan their activities, completing harder tasks on days predicted to have lower levels of pain,” Dixon said in a university news release.

“The dataset will also provide information to scientists interested in understanding the mechanisms of pain, which could ultimately open the door to new treatments,” Dixon added.

The study included more than 2,600 people across the United Kingdom with conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine and neuropathic pain.

The investigators used a smartphone app to record daily pain symptoms and their local weather was determined using location information from their smartphone’s GPS. Data was collected for about six months.

The participants were more likely to have pain on humid days than on dry days.

Low pressure and higher wind speed were also associated with painful days, but to a lesser degree than humidity, the findings showed.

However, the researchers could not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

Overall, temperature did not appear to affect pain, but cold days that were also damp and windy could be more painful. There was no link between rain and pain.

The findings were published online recently in the journal NPJ Digital Medicine.

“The analysis showed that on damp and windy days with low pressure the chances of experiencing more pain, compared to an average day, was around 20%. This would mean that, if your chances of a painful day on an average weather day were 5 in 100, they would increase to 6 in 100 on a damp and windy day,” Dixon explained.

“Weather has been thought to affect symptoms in patients with arthritis since Hippocrates. Around three-quarters of people living with arthritis believe their pain is affected by the weather,” he said.

“Yet despite much research examining the existence and nature of this relationship, there remains no scientific consensus,” Dixon noted. “We hoped that smartphones would allow us to make greater progress by recruiting many more people, and tracking daily symptoms across seasons.”