Scientists at the University of Manchester are currently trying to establish whether there is a connection between weather patterns and the pain experienced by arthritis sufferers and others. Speculation on the link between weather and pain dates back to the time of Hippocrates in ancient Hellas. However, there is little clinical and scientific evidence to support the link. Daily data inputted from over 9000 UK participants in The University of Manchester-led 'Cloudy with a Chance of Pain' project has been viewed at the halfway stage of the 18-month study; these early results suggest a correlation between the number of sunny days and rainfall levels and changes in pain levels.

Hippokrátēs of Kos (Latinized as Hippocrates) was alive from 460 BC to about 370 BC. In his lifetime, he set about to advancing the systematic study of clinical medicine, summing up the medical knowledge of previous schools, and prescribing practices for physicians through the Hippocratic Corpus and other works (although he Corpus itself was most likely not written by him, but assembled in and slightly after his time). Hippocrates separated the discipline of medicine from religion, believing and arguing that disease was not a punishment inflicted by the Theoi but rather the product of environmental factors, diet, and living habits. Much of his theories came from his very basic understanding of the human body: in Hippocrates' time, it was forbidden to cut into a corpse, even for research.

Hippocrates, first and foremost, was an observer. He noted symptoms and linked them to diseases. He noted how often diseases appeared in his environment as well as the times and dates during which they did. As such, he was able to draw many conclusions on the influence fo the seasons--and subsequently the weather--on illness. Many of these observations are noted in section III of Aphorisms.

Modern science has long debated on--and resisted against--the influence of weather on various illnesses, inclusing the worsening or lessening of chronic pain contitions like artritis. A 2014 study, for example, found no link between cold weather and (chronic) back pain. This large 2016 study, however, indicates that while it may not be proveable, sufferers most certainly believe the link to exist.

The set-up of the 18-month project, called Cloudy With A Chance Of Pain, is simple: participants log on to an app and record their symptoms. The app also logs where they are and the exact weather at the time they enter the information. This information is collected for all 9000 participants and from that huge body of data, conclusions are drawn.

The participants who were based in Leeds, Norwich and London--reported that as the number of sunny days increased from February to June, the amount of time they experienced severe pain fell. However when there was a period of wet weather in June and fewer hours of sunlight, the level of pain increased once again.

Scientists think that it could be the fall in pressure behind the phenomenon which causes fluid in the joints to shift. Low pressure also brings rain, so people may be mistaking the downpour for the cause of their increased discomfort. Professor Will Dixon, who treats people with arthritis at Salford Royal hospital, is leading the research. He said:

"We have long heard anecdotal evidence about how people with chronic conditions say they suffer more when the weather is bad - a lot of my patients tell me that they can predict the weather based on how they are feeling. But amazingly there has never really been any real research into it--even though that around 28 million people in the UK suffer from some form of chronic pain. I think there is definitely a possible link. In terms of physiology, it makes sense that air pressure, which can affect weather, would influence pain--particularly in arthritis.

The project is currently at the halfway stage. People interested in joining the Cloudy with a Chance of Pain project--and who have access to a smartphone--can sign up at Dixon notes:

"To work out the details of how weather influences pain, we need as many people as possible to participate in the study and track their symptoms on their smartphone. Once the link is proven, people will have the confidence to plan their activities in accordance with the weather. In addition, understanding how weather influences pain will allow medical researchers to explore new pain interventions and treatments."