1.1 Cloudy With a Chance of Pain: A Smartphone Study Examining the Association between Weather and Chronic Pain

Monday, 23 January 2017: 11:00 AM
Conference Center: Tahoma 5 (Washington State Convention Center )
David M. Schultz, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom; and J. Sargeant, J. McBeth, L. Cook, C. Sanders, J. Ainsworth, R. Lakshminarayana, and W. G. Dixon

Handout (2.5 MB)

Many people suffering from arthritis and other chronic pain conditions have long felt some kind of link between their symptoms and the weather.  The largest review of previously published scientific studies investigating any link yields an inconclusive result.  The reason for such an inconclusive result is not surprising given the small sample sizes (typically less than 100 patients) and most studies lasting a few weeks at most.  Not being exposed to the full-range of weather conditions over the course of the year, or even being exposed to outside weather conditions, further complicates the analysis.  Finally, the weather data used was poorly considered in most cases.  To resolve these issues, we are undertaking the largest study to date to ask how the pain of patients with chronic pain relates to the weather.  Specifically, we are curious about which weather variables provide the most signal and whether there is a time lag.  The goal is to identify a plausible physically-based link between the weather and symptoms in people living with chronic pain.

Cloudy With a Chance of Pain is an interdisciplinary study funded by Arthritis Research UK and the UK Medical Research Council.  Patients download an app to their smartphone in which they record ten measures each day (eight are specific to their symptoms, whereas two are associated with the amount of time spent outside and level of physical activity). Using the phone’s GPS, the data from the closest weather station to their location is downloaded and linked with their symptoms.  Since January 2016, nearly 9000 people have downloaded the app and have participated in the study.  Although initial data analysis is ongoing, we are optimistic that big data techniques will allow us to finally answer the question of what characteristics of the weather are associated with pain.  The results will inform our real-time weather forecasting operations at ManUniCast.com, where we hope to offer pain forecasts in the future.

Supplementary URL: https://www.cloudywithachanceofpain.com/

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