By Christa Sgobba
You know that old belief that you can feel it in your bones when it’s going to rain? Well, the rain might not bring on your knee pain after all: Wet weather actually reduces online search volume about achy joints, questioning the long-standing belief that arthritis flares up during inclement weather, new research in PLOS One discovered.
Researchers from the University of Washington analyzed Google search results for knee and hip pain queries from 45 U.S. cities for five years. They believed searches could signal symptomatic joint pain, working off the hypothesis that elevated symptoms would trigger an increase in information-seeking behavior on the condition.
Related: How To Save Your Knees (And Money)
They discovered that the weather conditions did play a role in searches related to joint pain—but not in the way most people would think.
For one, rain was not linked to an increase in hip and knee pain searches. In fact, precipitation was actually related to a small but significant drop in the number of searches.
So what did drive searches? Higher temperatures: As temperatures rose, so did hip and knee pain searches, peaking at 73 degrees for knee pain and 83 degrees for hip pain, the researchers said in a statement. But small decreases for hip and knee pain searches were evident once temps increased to over 86 degrees.
It’s likely not the weather itself that’s responsible for the shifts in searches, the researchers believe. Instead, it’s more likely that people increase their activity levels the warmer it gets outside, and it’s that change that’s probably responsible for the uptick in symptoms.
“We haven’t found any direct mechanism that links ambient temperature with pain,” study author Scott Telfer, Ph.D., said in the statement.
“What we think is a much more likely explanation is the fact that people are more active on nice days, so [they’re] more prone to have overuse and acute injuries from that and to search online for relevant information.”