Rain and Pain in Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia pain and fatigue not truly linked to weather conditions

(RxWiki News) The weather can have a profound effect on people. But contrary to popular belief, the weather might not have much to do with worsening of pain and fatigue in people with fibromyalgia.

A recent study had patients with fibromyalgia keep a symptom diary for four weeks. The researchers compared those symptoms to the weather for each day.

The results of this study showed only small and inconsistent links between inclement weather and symptoms of fatigue or pain.

"Tell your doctor if your symptoms change with the weather."

Ercolie Bossema, PhD, from the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, led a study into symptom changes from weather conditions in people with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia symptoms include chronic widespread pain, fatigue, cloudy thinking and increased sensitivity.

The authors estimated that roughly 92 percent of patients with fibromyalgia have reported that specific weather conditions worsen symptoms.

For this study, 333 adult women who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia by a rheumatologist were asked to keep a symptoms diary for 28 straight days.

The researchers accessed detailed daily weather conditions from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. Measures of weather included the air temperature, minutes of sunshine, amount of rainfall, atmospheric pressure and relative humidity.

A total of 69 percent of the patients kept symptom diaries during an autumn month and 26 percent kept a symptom diary during a summer month. No diaries were kept during spring months. Only 5 percent of patients kept a symptom diary during a winter month.

At least some rainfall happened on 47 percent of the days in question.

The results of the study showed that after taking symptoms and weather variables into account, only 10 percent of the associations between pain or fatigue could be attributed to the weather.

On sunnier days, patients reported lower levels of pain symptoms.  Patients reported more pain symptoms on days with higher levels of relative humidity.

The patients reported more fatigue symptoms on the day after a hot day. Fatigue symptoms were lower on the day after a humid day. 

“A few significant but small and inconsistent associations were found [between weather and fibromyalgia symptoms],” the authors wrote.

“While individuals appear to be differentially sensitive to certain weather conditions [temperature, sunshine and humidity], there is no indication that specific patient characteristics play a role in weather sensitivity,” they wrote.

The authors did note that the findings in this study should not rule out the possibility that some individual patients with fibromyalgia could have weather-related symptoms.

This study was published in June in Arthritis Care & Research.

The Dutch Arthritis Association provided funding for this project. No conflicts of interest were declared.

Review Date: 
June 3, 2013