Dutch researchers report that weather conditions including temperature, sunshine, and precipitation have no impact on fibromyalgia symptoms in female patients. Results published in Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), suggest that individual patients may be sensitive to some changes in the weather.
Medical evidence shows that fibromyalgia affects 2% of the world population with a greater prevalence among women. In the U.S., the ACR estimates that five million people experience the widespread pain, unexplained fatigue, headaches, and sleep disturbances from this chronic pain syndrome. While the cause of fibromyalgia remains a mystery, studies suggest patients have increased sensitivity to a range of stimuli and up to 92% cite weather conditions exacerbate their symptoms.
“Many fibromyalgia patients report that certain weather conditions seem to aggravate their symptoms,” explains first author, Ercolie Bossema, Ph.D. from Utrecht University in the Netherlands. “Previous research has investigated weather conditions and changes in fibromyalgia symptoms, but an association remains unclear.”
To further explore the impact of weather on pain and fatigue in fibromyalgia, the team enrolled 333 female patients with this pain syndrome in the study. Participants had a mean age of 47 years and had a diagnosis of fibromyalgia for nearly 2 years.
The patients completed questions regarding their pain and fatigue symptoms over a 28-day period. Researchers obtained air temperature, sunshine duration, precipitation, atmospheric pressure, and relative humidity from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.
Findings indicate that in 10% of analyses, weather variables showed a significant but small effect on pain or fatigue symptoms. In 20% of analyses, researchers found significant small differences between patients’ responses to weather, suggesting pain and fatigue symptoms were differentially affected by some weather conditions, i.e. greater pain with either low or high atmospheric pressure. The differences in individual symptom response to weather conditions did not appear to be associated with any demographic, functional or mental health status, nor seasonal or weather-related variations.
“Our analyses provide more evidence against, than in support of, the daily influence of weather on fibromyalgia pain and fatigue,” concludes Dr. Bossema. “This study is the first to investigate the impact of weather on fibromyalgia symptoms in a large cohort, and our findings show no association between specific fibromyalgia patient characteristics and weather sensitivity.” The authors suggest that future research include more patient characteristics, such as personality traits, beliefs about chronic pain, and attitude regarding the influence of weather on symptoms, to help explain individual differences in weather sensitivity and its impact on fibromyalgia pain and fatigue.
Full citation: “The Influence of Weather on Daily Symptoms of Pain and Fatigue in Female Patients with Fibromyalgia: A Multilevel Regression Analysis.” Ercolie R. Bossema, Henriet van Middendorp, Johannes W.G. Jacobs,Johannes W.J. Bijlsma and Rinie Geenen. Arthritis Care and Research; Published Online: June 4, 2013 (DOI: 10.1002/acr.22008).
How Does the Weather Affect Fibromyalgia Symptoms?
Many fibromyalgia patients claim that changes in the weather directly affect many of their symptoms. In fact, many fibromyalgia sufferers claim that their symptoms vary according to temperature changes, changes in air pressure, and changes in precipitation in their part of their world. Most fibromyalgia sufferers claim that they experience changes in:
the number of symptom flare ups
Who is Affected by Weather Changes?
According to a study performed in 1981, a large percentage of fibromyalgia sufferers may actually be sensitive to changes in the weather. In this particular study, 90% of patients claimed that weather was one of the most important influences on their fibromyalgia symptoms. And fibromyalgia sufferers aren’t the only ones to experience weather-related symptoms. You may also find that the weather exacerbates your symptoms if you have:
Author Contact: To arrange an interview with Ercolie Bossema, please contact with Ronnie van Veen, press officer at Utrecht University, phone: +31 30 253 4027, email:R.A.B.vanVeen@uu.nl.
About the Journal
Arthritis Care & Research is an official journal of the American College of Rheumatology (ACR), and the Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals (ARHP), a division of the College. Arthritis Care & Research is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes both original research and review articles that promote excellence in the clinical practice of rheumatology. Relevant to the care of individuals with arthritis and related disorders, major topics are evidence-based practice studies, clinical problems, practice guidelines, health care economics, health care policy, educational, social, and public health issues, and future trends in rheumatology practice. The journal is published by Wiley on behalf of the ACR. For more information, please visit the journal home page at http://wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/acr.
Weather factors that appear to affect Fibromyalgia symptoms include:
Temperature: Rapid changes in temperature and cold tend to irritate while warm temperatures are less troublesome.
Humidity: The amount of water vapor present in air. Humidity is associated with headaches, stiffness and widespread pain flare-ups in Fibromyalgia patients.
Wind: Wind usually causes a decrease in barometric pressure regardless of its force and therefore can trigger fatigue, headache, and muscle pain in Fibromyalgia patients.
Precipitation: This refers to any type of water that falls from the sky to the ground (rain, sleet, snow, hail) and is usually associated with a change (usually a drop) in barometric pressure. This can result in increased pain and fatigue in Fibromyalgia patients
Barometric Pressure: This is the measure of weight (pressure) that is exerted by the air that is all around us. Sunny days create a high barometric pressure while storms result in a sudden drop. These changes can trigger muscle aches in Fibromyalgia patients.
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