A research team at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom has launched a public study to determine the correlation between weather patterns and increased arthritic or chronic pain.
“Many people with arthritis believe that changes in the weather affect the level of pain they experience,” said Stephen Simpson, PhD, Director of Research and Programs at Arthritis Research UK. “However, there is currently no scientific evidence to support this relationship.”
Led by Will Dixon, PhD, Director of the University of Manchester’s Arthritis Research UK Center for Epidemiology and Honorary Consultant Rheumatologist at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, Cloudy with a Chance of Pain is a “citizen science experiment,” and the world’s first smartphone-based study investigating the potential relationship between pain and the weather. Dr Dixon and colleagues will conduct the study throughout 2016.
“We’re not just inviting people to submit data,” said Dr Dixon. “We want their ideas about the association between weather and pain. We will be running a big citizen science experiment where anyone can explore data and try to spot patterns and relationships in the data.”
According to the study website, participants must have arthritis or other chronic pain, live in the United Kingdom, be older than 17 years, and have an Android or Apple smartphone. Those who meet the requirements must download the uMotif study app and create an account, then track their symptoms daily for up to 6 months; participants’ phones will automatically collect local weather information on an hourly basis.
At the study’s conclusion in January 2017, Dr Dixon and his research team will conduct a formal analysis of the data, with the hope of using the collected information to generate “pain forecasts” that can be used by those with arthritic or chronic pain. In the meantime, both study participants and the general public can view submitted data. The study’s website encourages these viewers to submit any patterns they may spot or potential hypotheses surrounding the data.
“People taking part in this study will be helping to answer a question that even the father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, couldn’t resolve, and which hasn’t been resolved since,” concluded Dr Dixon. “That’s what epidemiology is all about, drawing patterns and inspiration from large groups of people to provide insights we couldn’t otherwise achieve – this time with the help of their smartphones.”
For more information, visit cloudywithachanceofpain.com, or follow the project on Twitter at @CloudyPain.
1. Arthritis Research UK. Cloudy With a Chance of Pain website. www.cloudywithachanceofpain.com; Published 2015. Accessed February 3, 2016.
2. Cloudy with a Chance of Pain: World’s First Investigates Links Between Pain and the Weather [news release]. London, England: The Farr Institute of Health Infomatics Research. January 20, 2016. http://www.farrinstitute.org/news/188/2016-01-20/cloudy-with-a-chance-of-pain-world-first-investigates-links-between-pain-and-the-weather.html. Accessed February 3, 2016.