My Back Aches – It Must Be Going To Rain!

My Back Aches – It Must Be Going To Rain!


The Beliefs

How many times have you heard people say things like that? But is it true?

I am always certain myself that I feel less achey when it is warm and if it is cold I often say that my joints feel as though they have “turned to wood” as they feel so stiff and difficult to move. In the sun, I feel loose and supple and I feel much less aware of joint aches and pains.

The Facts

However, I have just been reading that new research from the George Institute for Global Health in Australia says that the weather plays absolutely no part in the pain we feel, whether we have back pain or arthritis. (ScienceDaily, 10th January 2017).

Professor Chris Maher of the Institute says “The belief that pain and inclement weather are linked dates back to Roman times. But our research suggests this belief may be based on the fact that people recall events that confirm their pre-existing views”. He goes on to say that it is a human trait that if it is wet and cold outside we may be driven to think about pain more than if it is warm and sunny, when we feel better usually anyway.

His team took around 1000 people with low back pain and 250 with knee osteo-arthritis (degeneration) and used them for the study. The researchers took weather data from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology and compared the weather at the time patients first noticed pain with weather conditions one week and then one month before the onset of pain as a control measure.

Although it was the case that higher temperatures did slightly increase the chance of low back pain, the amount was not clinically significant. Results showed no association between the temperature outside and back pain. The same was found with humidity, air pressure, wind direction or rainfall.

Earlier research findings by Professor Maher  on the same subject saw him inundated with criticism from the public on social media. He said that people who contacted him were adamant that their symptoms DID feel worse in inclement weather so he decided to do another experiment!

Guess what – he found the same results!

What to do instead!

Associate Professor Manuela Ferreira from the George Institute said that people should not focus on the weather at all if they have back pain or arthritis. They cannot control the weather but they can control how they deal with pain. I have discussed ‘mind over matter’ before and the need for us to learn how to control our pain and focus on preventing it rather than concentrating on the pain we have. The more we think we are going to get pain – the more we do – those thoughts ‘light up’ the parts of our brain feeding back to the area of pain and that perpetuates the pain. We need to focus on other things so we stimulate other parts of our brains and as a result we will not feel pain.

“It’s wet today so my back is going to ache” can be a self-fulfilling prophecy but a positive attitude and not worrying about what is happening outside is far more effective at controlling our back pain. Yoga and mindfulness are helpful in encouraging us to focus on other things….. let’s try not to be controlled by ideas that have no basis in science!

If your back is bothering you – come in and see one of the chiropractors and discuss with them more positive ways you can control how you feel – we are always here to help!