By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Fibromyalgia syndrome is an incurable chronic and long term condition with symptoms including widespread pain and pain in the tender points, fatigue, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, inability to get refreshing sleep, waking up tired and stiff and developing cognitive disturbances including lack of concentration and clumsiness, dizziness etc.
Patients with this syndrome are extremely sensitivity to pain. About 10 million people are currently diagnosed with this disorder. Although 9 out of 10 people diagnosed are women, men also get this disorder. Fibromyalgia is not life-threatening and does not reduce life expectancy.
Sensitivity to changes in the weather
Some patients with fibromyalgia have reported that they are more sensitive to changes in the weather, to bright lights, noise etc. Among all the criteria set for fibromyalgia diagnosis several include weather sensitivity as minor criteria for the diagnosis.
There are published studies that have related the pain in fibromyalgia to weather changes. Some studies report that barometric pressure affected fibromyalgic pain positively while yet others find no association.
Arthritis pain and weather changes
There is a definitive association between flare up of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and weather changes. A wetter and colder climate usually affects arthritis pain adversely.
Further low back pain worsens with weather and so does osteoarthritis pain due to changes in humidity and temperatures.
Fibromyalgia and the weather
In fibromyalgia patients the belief that the weather affects pain scores is one of the main factors that affect pain sensitivity in relation to weather found a recent study (1).
In this study patients were given weather parameters like cloudiness, wind speed, barometric pressure, relative humidity, sunlight and temperature and asked to rate their pain scores according to weather.
The actual pain scores in different climates and weather conditions were examined and the fact that fibromyalgia pain could predict the weather the next day was evaluated for truthfulness.
The study found no association between weather changes and fibromyalgia pain on the same or the next day.
Further the onset or severity of pain does not predict weather changes on either the same or the next day.
The study also found that patients who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia for less than 10 years had significantly greater weather sensitivity for pain.
Furthermore presence of anxiety and depression lead to an increased reporting of weather sensitive pain.
Reviewed by April Cashin-Garbutt, BA Hons (Cantab)