Study Addresses How Weather Affects Pain Tolerance

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Erlend Hoftun Farbu, PhD student
Department of Community Medicine
The Arctic University of Norway
Tromsø, Norway

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: Many report that weather affect their pain condition. Some studies confirm this, others do no. However, these studies have asked “How much pain do you have today?”

We used two tests to assess how much pain a person can tolerate. We then looked at how pain tolerance vary over time and if they are associated with weather.

The results show quite clearly that people can tolerate more pain caused by intense cold temperature in the colder months of the year. There was no such seasonal variation in pain caused by pressure to the leg. On the other hand, we found that both pressure pain tolerance and weather at one day was associated with the next days, but not the next month. When we further linked the weather and pain tolerance, we found that, for example, in some periods a rise in temperature happened at the same time as a rise in pain tolerance. While in other periods, there were no such association. We mean that this is because we adapt to the weather. For example, how we experience 5 °C (41°F) is different in autumn and spring..

Finally, temperature and barometric pressure could predict future values of pressure pain tolerance

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Taken together, these results suggests that weather affect pain tolerance in a dynamic non-linear way, meaning the effect changes over time depending on the previous weather. This is probably due to different adaptive processes in the body. The results also shed light on the difficulties in predicting or understanding an individual’s pain experience. 

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Studies using tests of pain tolerance should be aware that it changes over time. For example, if a study wants to see if cold pain tolerance can predict the risk of future chronic pain, the seasonal variation should be corrected for. Also, studies using tests of pain tolerance as outcomes for treatments, should sample their data over time so that the short-term variation is randomly distributed.

PainRelief.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: These data are observational, and we have measured each individual only once. Thus, we cannot say whether some individuals are more easily affected than other, or what their characteristics are.

Citation:

Farbu, Erlend Hoftuna,*; Rypdal, Martinb; Skandfer, Mortena; Steingrímsdóttir, Ólöf Annac; Brenn, Tormoda; Stubhaug, Audund,e; Nielsen, Christopher Sivertc,d; Höper, Anje Christinaa To tolerate weather and to tolerate pain, PAIN: September 9, 2021 – Volume – Issue – doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000002437

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