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Today's blog is written by Dr Leticia Deveza from the Institute of Bone and Joint Research. Dr Deveza is a rheumatologist hailing from Brazil and is a current PhD student working with Professor David Hunter. Leticia has a keen interest in the different phenotypes of osteoarthritis and enjoys running in her free time.

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Learning point: This post uses the term “acute” a few times. In this context “acute” refers to a sudden onset.

Changes in weather are frequently reported to trigger increases in pain by people with osteoarthritis and other chronic pain conditions. Around two-thirds of people with knee, hip or hand osteoarthritis reported that the weather affects their pain and, for most people, increases in pain could actually be perceived even before the weather changed!

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There are a few theories about the mechanisms behind this phenomenon, including that changes in air pressure associated with weather changes are actually responsible for causing pain flare ups. However, at present, that is no conclusive evidence from studies to support the relationship between weather changes and acute increases in pain in people with knee osteoarthritis.

A recent study was conducted in Australia, intending to shed light on this intriguing, commonly reported association. It included people with knee osteoarthritis and investigated whether temperature, relative humidity, air pressure and precipitation were associated with an increase of at least 20% from the mildest pain reported at the beginning of the study. After 3 months of follow-up, the study found no association between weather and knee pain increases in the 171 participants who experienced at least 1 flare throughout the study.
However, it is important to note that more extreme temperatures (e.g. < 10oC) were uncommon during the study and hence these findings cannot be transferred to other regions that may experience more dramatic weather. Nevertheless, results of this study suggested that there is no relationship between weather and knee pain caused by osteoarthritis and, therefore, it is possible that other factors may play a role in these acute increases in knee pain.

Link to the study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27492467

Ferreira ML, Zhang Y, Metcalf B, Makovey J, Bennell KL, March L, Hunter DJ. The influence of weather on the risk of pain exacerbation in patients with knee osteoarthritis - a case-crossover study. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2016 Aug 1. pii: S1063-4584(16)30205-9.doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2016.07.016.

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