Bad weather can get you down, but it doesn’t make your back hurt or cause joint pain. Good weather doesn’t make help, either – and those aches and pains tend not to be relieved by over-the-counter pain medications.
That’s the conclusion of new research coming out of Australia, which tracked nearly 1,000 people with lower back pain and around 350 with knee osteoarthritis, along with local weather data. When patients felt pain was matched to weather conditions at the time and a week or a month beforehand as a control measure.
Precipitation, temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind direction – none were timed consistently with patients’ back and knee pain.
Not that everyone will be convinced. Blame it in part on generations of beliefs. Also on the prevalence of back and joint pain, suffered by millions worldwide and in an increasing number in countries (like the U.S.) where life expectancy is improving, so backs, knees, ankles and elbows are working longer (and deteriorating further).
Australian researchers also reviewed 35 clinical trials involving more than 6,000 people. They found that nonprescription, anti-inflammatory drugs widely used to relieve back pain tend not to help. Just one of six patients using what are called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) experienced any significant benefit. (Researchers also found that patients routinely taking NSAIDs were experiencing more pain; they’re more than twice as likely to develop serious gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach ulcers and bleeding.)
Better alternatives for back and joint pain are available. Start with exercise, which is directly linked to releasing endorphins from the brain. Endorphins are chemicals that decrease pain. And of course, exercise can strengthen the body, improve balance and lower weight – helping you avoid pain.
If you have chronic nerve pain, relief can come from stimulation of the Dorsal Root Ganglion (DRG), a spinal cord structure densely populated with sensory nerves that transmit information to the brain. DRG stimulation helps with peripheral nerve pain and following hernia repair, pelvic surgery, knee replacement and foot and ankle operations.