Local weather is associated with rates of online searches for musculoskeletal pain symptoms

Local weather is associated with rates of online searches for musculoskeletal pain symptoms

Abstract

Weather conditions are commonly believed to influence musculoskeletal pain, however the evidence for this is mixed. This study aimed to examine the relationship between local meteorological conditions and online search trends for terms related to knee pain, hip pain, and arthritis. Five years of relative online search volumes for these terms were obtained for the 50 most populous cities in the contiguous United States, along with corresponding local weather data for temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, and precipitation. Methods from the climate econometrics literature were used to assess the casual impact of these meteorological variables on the relative volumes of searches for pain. For temperatures between -5°C and 30°C, search volumes for hip pain increased by 12 index points, and knee pain increased by 18 index points. Precipitation had a negative effect on search volumes for these terms. At temperatures >30°C, search volumes for arthritis related pain decreased by 7 index points. These patterns were not seen for pain searches unrelated to the musculoskeletal system. In summary, selected local weather conditions are significantly associated with online search volumes for specific musculoskeletal pain symptoms. We believe the predominate driver for this to be the relative changes in physical activity levels associated with meteorological conditions.


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