In 2019, a study by the University of Manchester confirmed what chronic pain sufferers have always known: chronic pain is affected by the weather. The study, Cloudy With a Chance of Pain, inspired the Weather Flare app.
Weather Flare allows people to track the symptoms of chronic pain conditions (e.g. arthritis, fibromyalgia) against weather conditions and discover the connection between the two. Using this knowledge and helpful, personalised advice, sufferers can “forecast” flare-ups and plan ahead to minimise the impact on their lives.
Weather Flare has already expanded to include other weather-related conditions, such as allergies and COPD. Future development will see the app implement AI learning to trace behavioural and symptom patterns and develop personalised recommendations. This could involve integrating the app with wearable fitness devices and other technology to track exercise and weather connections. There is also potential to create specialist databases that would, for example, provide recommendations based on the user’s medication.
The personal and economic implications of the Weather Flare app are incredibly positive.
For the sufferer, chronic pain is strongly linked to conditions like depression and anxiety. Attacks seem to come out of nowhere, leaving them at the mercy of their symptoms. On top of the constant pain, they feel a lack of control over their condition, their body, and their quality of life. Weather Flare hands some of that control back to them, allowing them to understand a common trigger – the weather – and plan accordingly.
It can be hard to convey the experience of chronic pain, and many people don’t have the words, the energy, or the confidence to communicate what they’re going through. Sufferers often feel misunderstood or “left to it” by their healthcare providers as a result, and many have come to depend on potentially destructive pain medications to cope instead. Weather Flare can help to bridge the communications gap and get sufferers the appropriate support.
Weather Flare doesn’t just benefit the chronic pain sufferer. Chronic pain costs the economy billions every year in healthcare, social support and lost labour. Helping people to relieve the personal burden of chronic pain and to access more appropriate, effective care positively and powerfully impacts all three. This is especially relevant given the current economical demands on these systems in light of the COVID-19 crisis.