If you suffer from chronic pain, it’s highly likely that you’re going to be more affected by cold weather than most people. Cold weather keeps us indoors more, making it harder to get things done, and also makes it less likely we’ll get exercise. Here are some facts to help you navigate your chronic pain as the weather gets colder.
Since barometric pressure drops before rainy weather, which means less air pressure on our bodies, tissue in our body expands, making chronic pain worse. Pressure is felt in the body as a result of this shift, sometimes as discomfort or pain. If you have chronic pain, your heightened pain sensitivity may make this pressure more uncomfortable than it would be for others.
Each bodily structure featuring a joint has a different density to other similar structures on the body. This means they will each react differently to changes in temperature - some joints will be looser, some tighter. Tighter joints take much longer to warm up, meaning that as you do, you may experience joint dysfunction, and the pain that comes with that. Some studies suggest that drops in temperature due to seasonal changes might change the viscosity of joint fluids, as well, which make that change even more difficult to get through and may contribute to the pain.
Cold weather means more time indoors, and means less sun overall. Melatonin from the pineal gland then increases, increasing drowsiness and reducing our overall energy. Since chronic pain often responds to exercise in a positive manner, being inside less than outside means less exercise, which can increase chronic pain. Making a concerted effort to get your exercise – inside or out – especially if part of a prescribed treatment regimen, is important as it gets colder out.
Some foods increase inflammation in your body, which will make your chronic pain much worse. Staying hydrated is also a great way to stave off inflammation, so drink plenty of water during the cold weather, too. Some inflammatory foods to avoid during the fall months include:
Getting more sunshine can decrease feelings of anxiety and depression. Since physical activity is more likely outside, you’re also likely to get more helpful exercise done there, too. Just be sure to prepare your body. Compression shirts and pants, as well as spandex gloves, can help prevent additional fluid settling in parts of the body where that additional fluid can make your chronic pain worse. Staying warm by layering clothing, using heating pads and keeping your house or work area warm is another critical element to reducing your chronic pain during the fall.
This can’t be stressed enough – don’t smoke! We should all know better by now, but it makes chronic pain worse. Speak with your doctor if your chronic pain medications are not working as well in the fall.