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Project lead: Professor Will Dixon and Louise Cook, The University of Manchester
Investigators from The University of Manchester have developed the world’s first smartphone-based study to investigate the association between weather conditions and symptoms of pain.
It has long been discussed that certain weather conditions can impact on pain experienced in bones, muscles and joints. It remains unproven by researchers so far as there has been no research of a large enough group, or the ability to identify the weather in the exact location of a user over the changing seasons. The wider ownership of smartphones gives us the opportunity to get frequent and better quality data to investigate this connection.
If patients also use wearable devices or apps to track fitness, the association between activity and severity of symptoms can also be considered.
In the study, patients use their smartphones to record daily information about their symptoms and other factors that may affect their pain levels, such as how well they have slept or how much exercise they have done. The GPS within the smartphone is then used to monitor and record local weather data.
In the first instance, people experiencing chronic pain or arthritis visit the website to read about the project. After confirming eligibility as someone experiencing chronic pain, people then download the Cloudy with a Chance of Pain app onto Android or Apple smartphones. Every evening, users receive a prompt which will remind them to record their symptoms. Alongside that, information is consistently collected from the GPS, allowing us to match patient symptom information with weather conditions in their location.
Participants are encouraged to record their symptoms for at least six months, with data being collected from January 2016 to April 2017. 13,256 people took part, recording over 5 million data points.