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Don't blame bad weather for your aching back

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THURSDAY, July 10, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The notion that lower back pain flares up during certain kinds of weather may be all in your head, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Australia tracked nearly 1,000 people who were seen for acute low back pain at primary care clinics in Sydney. The investigators looked at weather conditions when the patients' back pain started, as well as one week and one month before it began.

Reporting July 10 in the journal Arthritis Care & Research, they found no connection between back pain and temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction or precipitation. Higher wind speeds and gusts seemed to slightly increase the risk of low back pain, but this was not to any "clinically significant" degree.

"Many patients believe that weather impacts their pain symptoms. However, there are few robust studies investigating weather and pain, specifically research that does not rely on patient recall of the weather," lead researcher Dr. Daniel Steffens, of the George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney, said in a journal news release.

"Our findings refute previously held beliefs that certain common weather conditions increase risk of lower back pain," Steffens said.

Prior studies have suggested that cold or humid weather, and changes in the weather, are linked with worsening symptoms in people with chronic pain conditions. However, based on the new findings, Steffens believes that similar studies might be needed to examine the role -- if any -- of weather for conditions such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.

According to the researchers, nearly everyone suffers low back pain at some point in their lives. And, they noted, the World Health Organization estimates that up to one-third of the world's population is plagued by an aching back at any one time.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about low back pain.

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