If you’ve been a part of a pain support group, Facebook page, or have read a blog by a chronic pain patient, you have probably seen comments discussing the weather and pain. Here at TMJ Hope, our Facebook page frequently contains comments from patients who are going through a rough flare-up, and many times they mention the weather being a factor. So we wondered…. does weather really make jaw pain worse? or is it just an old wive’s tale? Here is what we found…
559 chronic pain patients in four cities were surveyed by Dr. Robert N. Jamison and colleagues at Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston. The findings revealed that “weather affects pain no matter where people live”. Dr. Jamison said, “the findings suggest that our bodies adjust to local climate and when changes happen in that climate, we react to them with an increase in pain.” He went on to further explain, “If you spend two weeks in Florida sipping pina coladas, you may feel a lot less pain than you did shoveling snow at home in Boston. But if you move to Florida, and your body adjusts to that climate, when the temperature drops, you may hurt just as much as you did when the weather changed in Boston.”
The take home here is that, possibly, instead of searching for a warm dry climate (like we’ve always thought), you should instead stay where you are (since your body has already adjusted) or look for an area that has a constant climate – one that does not change often.
Many patients feel that changes in barometric pressure affect their pain. In 2007, increasing barometric pressure was found to be a pain trigger by researchers at Tufts University. They also found that when the temperature dropped by 10 degrees, people’s arthritis pain increased proportionately. In the end, they weren’t able to explain these findings. Dr. Jamison at Brigham and Women’s Hospital also thought barometric pressure could be a culprit. He explained that when the pressure falls, muscles, bones, and other tissues may expand. This can trigger nerve pain.
In another study, this one published in 2004, migraine patients were asked to keep a log of their migraines for two years. These journals were then compared to the National Weather Service records. Although half of the study participants recorded migraines that occurred at the same time as the changes in weather, not all of the patients had the same weather triggers. For example, some recorded migraines during times of low humidity and low temperatures, while others had them during periods of high humidity and high heat.
In our informal survey here at TMJ Hope, 94% of those responding stated that they thought changes in the weather made their jaw pain worse. In particular, many mentioned in comments that cold weather caused their pain levels to escalate.
So it turns out that weather DOES affect pain. The problem is that no one really knows why. One thing, however, is resoundingly clear, we need more research on this subject. Until then… you will find us under the blankets next to the fire (at least until spring time)!
Does this information surprise you? Does your jaw pain seem worse during a specific type of weather?
References: 1. Jamison, R. (1995). Changes and Pain: Perceived Influence of Local Climate on Pain Complaint in Chronic Pain Patients. Pain, 61(2), 309. 2. Mcalindon, T. (2007). Changes in Barometric Pressure and Ambient Temperature Influence Osteoarthritis Pain. The American Journal of Medicine, 20(5), 429-434. 3. Prince, P. B. (2004). The Effect of Weather on Headache. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 44(6), 596-602.