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Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing

An elderly man's hand grasping a glass bottle

Cloudy with a chance of pain

Approximately 75% of people with long-term pain conditions, such as arthritis, believe weather affects their pain.

Many report pain is made worse by the cold. Others report pain is made worse by the warm. And others report damp or rainy weather aggravates pain.

To understand which weather conditions affect pain most, a group of University of Manchester–based researchers and their collaborators conducted a 15-month study with over 13,000 UK residents living with chronic pain called “Cloudy with a Chance of Pain”. Participants recorded their daily pain intensity within a smartphone app. GPS locations of their phones would then link to local weather data.

Analyzing 5.1 million pain reports, researchers compared, within each individual, the weather on days a significant increase in pain was experienced to the weather on days no such pain increase was experienced. They found days with higher humidity, lower pressure, and stronger winds are more likely associated with high pain days, a result consistent with the beliefs of many of the participants.

A deeper understanding of the effects of the environment on pain may allow scientists to better understand the mechanisms that cause pain and allow the development of new and more effective treatments for those who live with pain.

Professor Will Dixon

The results of this study could be important for patients in the future for two reasons. Given we can forecast the weather, it may be possible to develop a pain forecast knowing the relationship between weather and pain. This would allow people who suffer from chronic pain to plan their activities, completing harder tasks on days predicted to have lower levels of pain. The dataset will also provide information to scientists interested in understanding the mechanisms of pain, which could ultimately open the door to new treatments.

Professor Will Dixon / Chair in Digital Epidemiology, University of Manchester

Principle investigator

Manchester co-investigators 

Additional universities/external partners

Funding period

  • September 2015-May 2019

Disciplines involved

  • Musculoskeletal and Dermatological Sciences
  • Division of Informatics, Imaging and Data Sciences
  • Division of Population Health, Health Services Research and Primary Care
  • Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences