My Great Aunt Willa swore she could tell when it would rain by a certain pain in her shoulder. There are numerous reports of people who claim that what happens in their bodies can forecast certain weather phenomena.

Texas folklore is full of stories of people who claim they get joint pain when the humidity goes up.  The idea is that moisture in the air can cause joints to swell and become painful.

Others believe the approach of a cold front causes headaches, migraines, and joint pain. The idea is that barometric pressure or temperature changes can affect the joints' fluids and cause discomfort.

Is all of this just an old wives' tale? Is it really possible to forecast the weather with bodily changes?

There are several studies on the subject, but no conclusive answers.  A 2007 Journal of Pain study found that patients could reliably identify which meteorologic variables influenced their pain but could not reliably determine which physical symptoms were consistently affected.

Patients identified as "weather sensitive" defined greater pain related to weather changes, including muscle aches and joint pain but could not accurately predict the weather based on their pain patterns.

A 2017 review of scientific studies on this topic published in the Journal of Rheumatology reported some patients reported pain level changes on cold, overcast days, and following days with high barometric pressure.

Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash
Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash

However, weather variables only accounted for a small amount of change in pain scores when considering the magnitude of these effects.

Thus, although weather sensitivity was found, the effect sizes were not clinically meaningful.

Until more conclusive research occurs, the question as to whether some people can predict the weather with their aches and pains remains largely superstition and anecdotal. It fits into a great pattern of traditional beliefs in Texas that define our culture.

These include the idea of many farmers that planting during certain phases of the moon affects crop yields. There is no conclusive evidence to back that up either.

As for my Aunt Willa, she nearly succumbed to Hurricane Harvey. She refused to evacuate her home in Aransas Pass because her arthritis symptoms weren't kicking up, and she believed the storm would hit further south.

That's the trouble with folklore. It is not wise to trust it with your life.

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