Study design: Six months of daily low back pain ratings for 94 individuals were tested for the influence of prevailing weather conditions during the spring, summer, and fall seasons. Intergroup differences were tested for study participants who reported weather sensitivity and for those who did not.
Objectives: To investigate the relation between pain ratings and prevailing weather conditions in a population with chronic or recurrent low back pain.
Summary of background data: Weather conditions have been reported to influence pain perception in some disease states, including low back pain. Investigations of this relation in chronic or recurrent low back pain have involved varied methodologies, and conflicting results have been reported.
Methods: The effects of eight weather variables reported to influence musculoskeletal pain were tested on daily pain ratings. A post hoc weather sensitivity questionnaire was used to disperse 73 individuals into groups based on perceived weather sensitivity, and group differences were tested.
Results: Significant effects on pain scores were found, most notably for temperature and vapor pressure. The magnitude of the effects were small compared with autocorrelation of an individual's own pain scores. Significant differences were found between the group of individuals who were insensitive to weather conditions and that of individuals with perceived sensitivity to cold temperatures. No significant intergroup differences were found for damp, rainy conditions or changes in barometric pressure.
Conclusions: Weather conditions may influence subjective reporting of low back pain significantly. Although the effects are small in magnitude, they should be considered in clinical treatment of the patient with chronic, nonspecific low back pain. Pain scores may demonstrate greater interaction with certain weather conditions in individuals perceiving sensitivity to those conditions.