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New study describes relationship between weather, chronic pain

Alan Flurry

The perception of weather-related increases in chronic pain leads many people to plan their activities around forecasts and influences the desire for pain-based weather forecasts, according to a new research study from UGA geography. In a survey, about 70% of respondents said they would alter their behavior based on weather-based pain forecasts:

“We’re finding more consistent relationships between weather patterns and pain, so it seems more possible to make weather-based pain forecasts,” said lead author and geography/atmospheric sciences lecturer Christopher Elcik. “This study was to survey and see what the audience was for this type of forecast.”

The study surveyed more than 4,600 individuals, and among migraine sufferers, 89% identified weather as something that impacts their pain level, and 79% saw weather as a trigger for pain. Among individuals with other conditions, 64% said weather patterns could trigger pain and 94% identified weather as a factor that impacts pain.

Elcik built on previous research regarding specific weather patterns and pain-related conditions to gauge public interest in a weather-based pain forecast, which could indicate high or moderate risk for migraines or chronic pain.

“I see how much people can be affected by these types of pain, so if I can provide someone with insight into the level of risk for a day, maybe people can take steps to prevent the pain from happening,” Elcik said. “There are preventative measures people can take if risks are higher.”

If the hypothetical risk was high, more than half of respondents said they were likely to take preventive measures, such as medication, resting or avoiding compounding triggers, and about 47% of respondents with migraines and 46% with pain-related conditions were “extremely likely” to take such measures.

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Image: Illustration connecting weather forecasting with pain-related conditions. (Graphic illustration by Lindsay Robinson/ UGA)

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