Many people with fibromyalgia say the weather affects their symptoms but a recent Dutch study found very few symptom changes that could be attributed to the weather. The study findings were presented at the 2012 European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) Congress in Berlin earlier this month.
Study Design and Results
Because FM patients frequently complain of worsening symptoms due to the weather, scientists at Utrecht University in the Netherlands sought to find out how various weather conditions and patient characteristics might affect FM symptoms.
Study participants included 333 female fibromyalgia patients with a mean age of 47 who had been diagnosed an average of 3.5 years ago. Patient characteristics considered included age, education, marital status, time since symptoms began, and time since the diagnosis of fibromyalgia was made.
Participants kept a diary for 28 days, reporting on pain and fatigue levels as well as physical activity, sleep quality the previous night and whether or not they felt depressed. Daily weather conditions were obtained from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.
The researchers analyzed two FM symptoms––pain and fatigue, and five weather factors––duration of sun, air temperature, rain, air pressure, and relative humidity. They found that out of 50 possible symptom and weather associations on any given day, only three significant links were found:
Pain and an increase in relative humidity on the previous day.
Pain with rain on the same day.
Fatigue with a higher air temperature on the previous day.
Lead author, Ercolie Bossema, MD, reportedly said that the small associations were only found in changes in weather conditions and symptoms.
I found it interesting that the few correlations they found related to changes in the weather rather than to specific weather conditions because that has been my experience. Whenever a major weather front moves through, I usually notice a mild to moderate increase in pain. What kind of front doesn't seem to matter but rather the fact that there is a significant change in the weather.
My personal theory has always been that my increase in pain was related to changes in the barometric pressure that occur with weather fronts. Likewise, since flying always results in a major flare for me, my theory has been that the rapid change in cabin pressure triggers the increased pain. In my mind, the two are connected so I tend to think that air pressure changes affect my pain level.
But since I'm not a scientist, a meteorologist or a doctor, I have no idea whether my theory has any merit. I have mentioned it to a couple of doctors but they didn't seem overly impressed by my observation, so who knows.
I would like to know what you have noticed regarding the weather and your FM symptoms. Do your symptoms get worse when the weather changes? Have you noticed any particular symptom patterns related to the weather? Or is it possible that we're all just looking for some logical explanation for why our symptoms change from day to day?