Weather Sensitivity

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Many individuals with fibromyalgia report that their symptoms either improve or worsen in relation to changes in the weather. Some attribute their changing symptoms to rain, high or low temperatures, and even changes in atmospheric pressure. Due to the individual nature of such complaints, and their subjective nature in general, it is difficult to study the relationship between weather and fibromyalgia. Nevertheless, a number of studies have been conducted, with mixed findings.

An internet-based questionnaire was administered to more than 2,500 fibromyalgia patients in October of 2005. Of the many variables assessed by this questionnaire, respondents were asked to list factors that they perceived as aggravating their fibromyalgia symptoms. Changes in the weather was one of the most common exacerbating events reported by the respondents, alongside mental stressors, sleeping problems, and excessive physical activity. In fact, 80% of the respondents reported that weather changes resulted in worsening of their fibromyalgia symptoms (Bennett et al., 2007). An earlier survey of 554 fibromyalgia patients and 169 healthy controls found that 70% of all respondents (combined) reported that their symptoms were aggravated by a number of peripheral factors, including the weather (Waylonis & Heck, 1992).

A 1994 study by Hagglund et al. examined the relationship between actual weather, disease severity, and fibromyalgia symptoms. In this study, 84 fibromyalgia patients completed a series of questionnaires designed to determine what, if any, relationship existed between their pain and actual weather conditions, as well as a number of other assessments, including measures of pain severity and pain impact. Participants in this study reported that weather had a profound effect on the musculoskeletal symptoms related to their fibromyalgia. In addition, those who reported the highest sensitivity to weather changes tended to have more impaired functioning and psychological distress.

Other studies have also found evidence of a possible association between weather sensitivity and fibromyalgia symptoms. A 2002 study by Strusberg et al. evaluated 151 Argentinean patients with a variety of rheumatic diseases, including 17 patients with fibromyalgia. The study found that low temperature and high atmospheric pressure were significantly related to fibromyalgia pain (Strusberg et al., 2002). Another study of the effects of weather changes in patients with rheumatic diseases found that among 11 fibromyalgia patients, nearly all reported weather changes as a symptom-exacerbating factor, with women more likely than men to report such an association. In addition, among the fibromyalgia patients, atmospheric pressure changes were more likely to affect pain than other variables, such as temperature and rain (Guedj & Weinberger, 1990). An analysis of health-related diaries maintained by eight women with fibromyalgia also found a consistent relationship between patterns of change in the weather and increasing/decreasing fibromyalgia pain (Schaefer, 1997).

However, other studies have been unable to find evidence of an association between various weather-related variables and fibromyalgia symptoms. For example, Fors & Sexton (2002) performed a study to examine the association between fibromyalgia-related pain and weather. Over a one-month period, 55 female fibromyalgia patients recorded their daily pain severity using a standardized scale. At the end of the study, researchers then attempted to correlate officially-recorded weather parameters over that prior month with the patients’ pain records. After analysis, the researchers found that no one weather variable predicted a change in pain either the day on which the weather event occurred, or the following day. Essentially, they found no support to suggest that weather changes were a factor in patient-reported changes in pain severity. Similar findings were reported in a study published in 1993 by de Blecourt et al.

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References

1.        Bennett RM, Jones J, Turk DC, Russell IJ, Matallana L. An internet survey of 2,596 people with fibromyalgia. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2007;9;8:27.

2.        Waylonis GW, Heck W. Fibromyalgia syndrome. New associations. Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 1992;71(6):343-348.

3.        Hagglund KJ, Deuser WE, Buckelew SP, Hewett J, Kay DR. Weather, beliefs about weather, and disease severity among patients with fibromyalgia. Arthritis Care Res. 1994;7(3):130-135.

4.        Strusberg I, Mendelberg RC, Serra HA, Strusberg AM. Influence of weather conditions on rheumatic pain. J Rheumatol. 2002;29(2):335-338.

5.        Schaefer KM. Health patterns of women with fibromyalgia. J Adv Nurs. 1997;26(3):565-571.

6.        Guedj D, Weinberger A. Effect of weather conditions on rheumatic patients. Ann Rheum Dis. 1990;;49(3):158-159.

7.        de Blecourt AC, Knipping AA, de Voogd N, van Rijswijk MH. Weather conditions and complaints in fibromyalgia. J Rheumatol. 1993;20:1932-1934.

Fors EA, Sexton H: Weather and the pain in fibromyalgia: are they related? Ann Rheum Dis. 2002;61:247-250.

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