Professor Will Dixon

Flashes of inspiration needed to solve weather and pain mystery

Could you help a ground-breaking study recording how thousands of people with chronic pain react to the weather?

More than 8,000 people from all over the UK have downloaded the Cloudy with a Chance of Pain app since the launch in January. Now the scientists are seeking the public’s help to draw links between the weather data and the recordings of pain.

Dr Will Dixon, Director of The University of Manchester’s Centre for Epidemiology Versus Arthritis and Honorary Consultant Rheumatologist at Salford Royal, had the original idea for the experiment.  He said: “We don’t have the answers for this important question, but by getting large numbers of people to look at the results, we hope that someone will have a flash of insight that could lead to a breakthrough.”

Anyone can take part in the study by visiting the website and looking at the data which can be displayed as symptom and weather landscapes.  People can explore reported symptoms such as pain intensity alongside weather parameters such as barometric pressure using graphics developed by the Office for Creative Research in New York. They can then enter their hypotheses about any relationships they spot (or not).

Suggestions will be assessed by the research team and may form part of the final results of the study next year.

Dr Dixon said: “The project got global attention when it was launched and this led to us receiving dozens of possible explanations from the public and seeing hundreds more on social media.  Now people have a chance to have a good look at the study data and give us their theories about if and how the weather affects pain.”

Cloudy with a Chance of Pain is the world’s first smartphone-based study to investigate the association between pain and the weather. The study is being carried out during 2016 using a smartphone platform called uMotif which people will use to record how they’re feeling, whilst local weather data is automatically collected using the phone’s GPS.

Anyone in the UK with arthritis or other chronic pain and aged 17 or over can take part. Once the project ends in January 2017, the research team will also carry out an analysis and hope to use the information for generating pain forecasts, allowing people to plan their weekly activities.

Dr Dixon added: “There are many variables at work here. For example, does temperature affect people’s pain?  And is it instantaneous or is there a lag of a few days?”

Visit the Cloudy with a Chance of Pain website to take part.

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