Are you affected by chinooks?
Published Wednesday, November 23, 2011 2:27PM MST
A study at the University of Calgary is looking at the positive and negative effects of chinook winds on Calgarians.
The study was conducted on close to 100 pains suffers over four years and showed that the warm winds bring pain for some and relief for others.
Dr. Cory Toth, research director of the Calgary Chronic Pain Centre Clinic at Foothills Medical Centre and a neurosciences professor with the University of Calgary's Hotchkiss Brain Institute conducted the study.
The doctor looked specifically at patients who suffer neuropathic pain, which includes conditions like sciatica (which causes pain in the lower back, buttocks and legs), pinched nerves, or nerve pain associated with diabetes.
"Many of our patients had complained that their pain worsened during changes in Calgary weather, particularly during chinooks," said Dr. Toth. "We expected to find a clear association between chinooks and worsening pain but we found just the opposite. Most patients' pain improved during the warmer weather and got worse when temperatures dropped."
Study participants were told that researchers were looking at how different factors might affect their pain, including exercise, diet, mood, anxiety levels and weather conditions.
The participants assessed and recorded their pain regularly making note of precise times to allow researchers to compare those levels with hourly weather data from Environment Canada.
Some participants were surprised to learn how much their perception of how chinooks affected their neuropathic pain differed from the recorded data.
63 percent said they thought chinooks had worsened their pain, 22 percent said they had no effect, and 15 percent said they made their pain better.
When the meteorological data was compared to the participant's pain diaries, patients were 1.8 times as likely to have had relief from neuropathic pain on a chinook day as compared to any non-chinook day.
"Our study suggests chinooks may have unfairly gotten a bad rap among neuropathic pain sufferers," says Dr. Toth. "Many patients should welcome chinooks instead of dreading them."
Dr. Toth says there is a significant overlap between neuropathic pain suffers and migraine suffers.
Previous studies suggest lower barometric pressures and higher temperatures during chinooks may increase the risk of triggering a migraine.
"I think both these studies show that we don't yet fully understand the effects of weather on pain," Dr. Toth says.
Neuropathic pain affects about eight percent of the population and migraine pain about 12 percent.