Science & Technology

Cloudy with a Chance of Pain

Professor Will Dixon
Tuesday, 1 December 2020 - 6:30pm


Approximately 75% of people with long-term pain conditions, such as arthritis, believe weather affects their pain.  Many report pain is made worse by the cold.  Others report pain is made worse by the warm.  And others report damp or rainy weather aggravates pain.  To understand which weather conditions affect pain most, a group of University of Manchester–based researchers and their collaborators conducted a 15-month study with over 13,000 UK residents living with chronic pain called “Cloudy with a Chance of Pain”.  Participants recorded their daily pain intensity within a smartphone app.  GPS locations of their phones would then link to local weather data.  Analyzing 5.1 million pain reports, researchers compared, within each individual, the weather on days a significant increase in pain was experienced to the weather on days no such pain increase was experienced.  They found days with higher humidity, lower pressure, and stronger winds are more likely associated with high pain days, a result consistent with the beliefs of many of the participants.  A deeper understanding of the effects of the environment on pain may allow scientists to better understand the mechanisms that cause pain and allow the development of new and more effective treatments for those who live with pain.



About the speaker

Professor Will Dixon qualified from Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Hospitals, London, trained as a rheumatologist in Manchester, UK and has higher degrees from The University of Manchester and McGill University, Montreal. He is a Professor of Digital Epidemiology, Director of the Centre for Epidemiology Versus Arthritis at the University of Manchester and an honorary consultant rheumatologist at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. 

His passion is using technology to support clinical care and research to improve patients’ lives. This includes the collection and sharing of research quality data from clinicians, collecting patient-generated data including its integration into electronic health records, and analysis of social media data. Recent digital health studies include the national smartphone study and citizen science experiment Cloudy with a Chance of Pain, a study of remote monitoring in rheumatoid arthritis (REMORA) which uniquely integrates patient-generated data into the NHS, and Koalap, the world’s first cellular smartwatch health research study.



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Image: ‘Cumulus Clouds’ by Daoudi Aissa on Unsplash