Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain, along with fatigue, sleep problems, memory issues, and mood changes. The disorder can also be associated with higher rates of tension headaches, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ), irritable bowel syndrome, and depression.
Fibromyalgia affects nearly 5 million adults in the United States, and many of these people point to changes in weather as a major aggravator of pain symptoms.
According to one survey done by the National Fibromyalgia Association, fibromyalgia patients ranked weather changes as the second leading cause of pain flare-ups and increased stiffness. Extreme cold was perceived to cause increased joint and muscle pain, while many patients also noticed a higher rate of headaches and muscle pain during periods of low barometric pressure.
Variable or colder weather patterns have driven many fibromyalgia patients to relocate to warmer climates in the Southwest United States. New research, however, is beginning to suggest that these perceptions may not be entirely accurate.
In a study published in the Arthritis Care & Research journal, researchers studied the influence of weather changes on fibromyalgia pain. The study followed 333 female patients and tracked their rates of pain and fatigue symptoms over a 28-day period. During this period, researchers also tracked the air temperature, sunshine duration, precipitation, atmospheric pressure, and relative humidity to see if there was any correlation between weather and symptoms.
At the end of the study, researchers concluded that there is “more evidence against, than in support of, the daily influence of weather on fibromyalgia pain and fatigue.”
In 10% of cases, weather variables did show a significant, but small, effect on fibromyalgia symptoms. In 20% of instances, there were significant, but still small, differences between patients’ responses to weather that suggested that some symptoms were affected by weather conditions.
While the study did show some slight correlation between changes in weather and fibromyalgia symptoms, the incidence of it was not enough to show a proven association between the two. Researchers suggested that individual beliefs and attitudes about the impact of weather may largely explain differences in weather sensitivity.
Do you suffer from fibromyalgia? Do you notice a change in your symptoms when the weather changes?
Image by Carnie Lewis via Flickr