Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic pain condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, stiffness, fatigue, cognitive difficulty, and mood disturbance. The cause and underlying mechanisms responsible for FM are only partially understood. It has been shown that FM patients exhibit greater sensitivity to pain, known as hyperalgesia, and longer pain after-effects. In addition, a majority of patients experience heightened sensitivity to changing weather condition and report that this can exacerbate their symptoms.
Despite FM patients’ self-report about weather sensitivity, cross-sectional studies did not find any links between FM symptoms and weather conditions. Studies also found no compelling evidence for weather related changes of FM symptoms. However, no long-term studies have examined the relationship between the weather and FM symptoms. Recently however, Norwegian researchers investigated the possible influence of weather on daily pain and fatigue levels in a large study population of female FM participants.
In order to explore the relationship between the weather and FM pain/fatigue, the Norwegian researchers asked 333 female FM patients questions about their pain and fatigue over 28 consecutive days. The middle-aged participants had been diagnosed with FM for almost two years. The researchers looked at the association of pain and fatigue ratings with daily weather conditions, air temperature, atmospheric pressure, sunshine duration, precipitation, and relative humidity levels. Participants were also asked to rate their depressed mood for that day, how much physical activity they performed, as well as the quality of the previous night’s sleep. Using this information, statistical analyses were conducted to evaluate the impact of weather variables on FM symptoms.
Overall, only small changes of FM pain and fatigue were found to be related to weather and some FM patients experienced greater pain or fatigue symptoms with varying weather conditions.Interestingly enough, responsiveness to changing weather conditions among patients was not uniform and not explained by demographics, mental characteristics, or seasonal variation. Overall, few significant, though small and inconsistent associations were found.
In conclusion, this study does not provide convincing evidence for the influence of specific weather conditions on daily symptoms of FM patients. However, it seems that specific weather conditions affect individual patients differently. thus, despite self-reported associations of FM pain and fatigue with weather changes in individual patients, no group effect seems to exist.
Meriem Mokhtech, BS
Senior Laboratory Technician
UF Center for Musculoskeletal Pain Research
1. Bossema ER, Middendorp H, Jacobs JHG, Bijlsma JWJ, Geenen R. Influence of Weather on Daily Symptoms of Pain and Fatigue in Female Patients With Fibromyalgia: A Multilevel Regression Analysis. Arthritis Care & Research 2013; 65(7):1019-25.