Posted on Sep 1st 2022
As fall approaches, learn how weather and chronic pain are linked and how to alleviate worsening pain.
Our bodies react to our environment in big and small ways. We’re built to adapt, and over time, our bodies adjust to accommodate climate elements such as temperature, humidity, and altitude. You may notice a shift as the weather changes if you suffer from chronic pain. Here are some things to be aware of as the weather grows cooler, so you can prepare.
Chronic Pain and Colder Weather
Chronic pain of various types and causes can change due to colder weather and increasing storms.
There are various theories as to why colder weather can cause an increase in joint pain. The first relates to the change in pressure. As temperatures drop or rain begins, barometric pressure drops as well. This change in pressure can cause contracting and expanding within the body’s tissues, nerves, and tendons, resulting in pain and irritation. Being outside in cold temperatures can signal your body to conserve heat. To do so, your body sends more blood flow to the lungs and heart and less to your arms and legs. This decrease in blood flow can cause joints to feel stiff or painful.
Many of the same elements that can increase joint pain in cold weather also worsen arthritis. As the temperature drops, the fluid within joints can thicken, making them feel stiff. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage between bones begins to wear down, and nerves become exposed. When these nerves are exposed to dropping temperatures and changing pressure, they can become more painful or irritated.
Whether you experience chronic back pain due to injury, arthritis, disk degeneration or another factor, you may notice it worsens in colder months. This can occur because lower barometric pressure or temperatures can cause swelling in already inflamed tissue. In some cases, blood vessels will narrow in response to the cold and cause the back to feel much stiffer.
Those who suffer from chronic headaches or migraines may notice increased pain in the colder months. Storms, pressure changes, extreme temperatures, and glare can all worsen headaches.
Alleviating Chronic Pain in Cold Weather
It is important to note that other impacts of cold weather and winter months can also link back to worsened chronic pain. Activity changes, changes in mood, and drops in energy levels caused by fewer hours of daylight and lower temperatures can all contribute to increased pain.
As the weather gets cooler, keep exercising if it helps your chronic pain. Make sure you warm up sufficiently if you do any physical activity outside. Consider switching to exercise that is easier on your joints, like swimming or yoga.
Try to maintain good sleep hygiene, as our sleep patterns can become disrupted as the days get shorter. Shorter, colder days make it tempting to curl up and stay inside, but in addition to trying to keep active, make sure you are taking care of your mental health. Exercise, nutrition and sleep can help manage stress and depression, but if you need extra help managing your mental health, consider talking to your doctor.
Finally, stay warm! Wear layers, take warm showers or baths, and stay active. If you are looking for help managing your chronic pain, Chronic Care of Richmond specializes in regenerative natural medicine to provide true relief from chronic pain, no matter the season. Get ahead of your chronic pain as fall descends. Request a consultation today.