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Chronic Lower Extremity Pain and Weather: What Can We Learn from the Cloud?

01/05/2021 • Shai Gozani M.D., Ph.D.

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Now that winter has arrived, it is a good time to review the association between weather and chronic pain.  Around 400 BC, the Greek physician Hippocrates wrote that certain weather patterns exacerbate joint pain.  What does modern science say?  Despite many studies over the past several decades, there is no definitive answer.  Some studies found a biological effect of weather on certain types of chronic pain and other studies have been unable to demonstrate a definitive association.  It is likely that a connection between weather and chronic pain exists, but the relationship is complex and highly variable.  However, there is no dispute that many people with chronic pain believe that the weather impacts their pain.  In this post, we explore self-reported weather sensitivity among individuals with chronic pain using the Quell Health Cloud®.

Weather Sensitivity Patterns in the Quell Health Cloud

As a starting point, how many Quell users report that weather impacts their chronic pain?  We analyzed data from 7,700 Quell users with chronic lower extremity pain who uploaded their demographic (e.g., age, gender) and clinical (e.g., medical conditions, pain levels) data to the Quell Health Cloud to support pain research.  In this group, 62% indicated that weather aggravates their chronic pain, 21% were not sure and 17% said that weather had no impact on their pain.  Among the 62% that reported an influence of weather on their chronic pain, the most common triggers were rain/snow (81%), cold temperatures (79%) and humidity (38%).  Other meteorological conditions such as hot temperatures, wind and cloudy conditions were less frequently noted.

Next we looked at the demographic and clinical factors that predict which Quell users are sensitive to weather.  We used a statistical analysis technique called logistic regression.  The list below shows the factors most closely associated with weather sensitivity.

  • Age < 65 years
  • Female
  • Chronic pain at least 4 years
  • Pain interferes with sleep
  • Pain interferes with mood
  • Shoulder pain
  • Hand / wrist pain
  • Arthritis
  • Prior leg / foot injury
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches / migraine

We see that female Quell users who are not elderly (i.e., less than 65 years of age), have had chronic pain for at least 4 years and whose pain interferes with their sleep or mood are more likely to have weather sensitivity.  Users with shoulder pain or hand/wrist pain in addition to their leg pain are also more susceptible.  Finally, users that report having a prior leg injury, arthritis, fibromyalgia or headaches/migraine are more like likely to experience weather sensitivity than those without these conditions.*

Managing Weather Sensitivity

There are steps you can take to help manage your chronic pain if it is weather sensitive.  The most important is increased awareness and planning.  Try to pay close attention to the forecast and plan your upcoming activities appropriately.  If the weather is of the type that usually increases your pain, then consider taking it easy and not pushing yourself.

Quell can also help.  It can be used as often as needed, even 24-hours a day, to provide lower extremity pain relief when you are having a bad day due to weather.  Moreover, the Quell Health Cloud will automatically track your local weather and alert you on days that are likely to have greater pain.  The Quell mobile app will also suggest a therapy increase on those days that you can choose to accept.

The relationship between weather and chronic pain is complicated.  Regardless, if your experience is that certain weather patterns aggravate your chronic pain, then the association is real and needs to be managed.  An increased attention to the weather forecast and using Quell on those difficult days may help you get through the winter with less pain and disruption to your life.

 

*Quell is intended to treat lower extremity chronic pain.  It has not been reviewed or cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for specific medical conditions such as fibromyalgia or migraine.


About The Author
Shai Gozani M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Gozani is an expert in non-invasive neurostimulation. He received his M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology. Dr. Gozani earned his Ph.D. in Neurobiology, M.S. in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and B.A. in Computer Science from the University of California at Berkeley. Following his studies, Dr. Gozani conducted post-doctoral research at Harvard Medical School and MIT. He holds 36 U.S. patents and has authored over 30 articles in scientific and clinical peer-reviewed journals. Dr. Gozani is founder, president and CEO of NeuroMetrix, Inc.; which designs and manufactures Quell.


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