Living with Chronic Pain

Summer Heat, Humidity, and Chronic Pain


The days of summer often involve time outside enjoying backyard cookouts, gardening, maintaining lawns, sitting around campfires, and cooling down at a pool or beach. However, for individuals with chronic pain, summer can also involve flare-ups and increased pain. Here are some ways heat and humidity can impact chronic pain and some tips to stay cool.

Weather and chronic pain

  • Inflammation — Heat and humidity can affect the level of synovial fluid, which is the fluid that lubricates the joints. This can lead to inflammation within the joints. Heat and humidity can also increase overall levels of inflammation in the body, which can increase pain.
  • Barometric pressure — Changes in barometric pressure (e.g., changes that occur before and after summer storms) can cause tendons, muscles, and scar tissue to expand and contract, increasing joint pain. For individuals with arthritis, nerves in the affected bones may also be sensitive to changes in barometric pressure, causing pain. Pain can develop with both increases or decreases in barometric pressure.
  • Temperature regulation — Some chronic pain conditions involve difficulty regulating body temperature, blood pressure, and pulse rate, especially during temperature and humidity changes.
  • Migraines — Migraines may increase in frequency or severity in response to changes in temperature, humidity levels, or barometric pressure.
  • Ozone — Summer weather can increase the levels of ozone in the atmosphere, which can affect individuals with fibromyalgia, chronic pain syndrome, multiple sclerosis, asthma, and other health conditions. Urban air pollution can also increase inflammation associated with these conditions.

Tips for reducing pain related to heat and humidity

  • Stay inside. Avoid being outside for long periods during high temperatures or humidity. Plan outdoor activities for early in the morning or after the sun begins to set. If outdoor activity during the heat of the day is necessary, take frequent breaks in the shade or indoors.
  • Keep the home cool. Using an air conditioner, fan, and dehumidifier can keep the home cool and comfortable. Using cold packs cools the body and may ease joint inflammation and pain.
  • Stay hydrated. To stay properly hydrated, be sure to drink plenty of water, especially when temperatures are high.
  • Talk to a doctor about adjusting medication dosages. If inflammation in the body increases during the summer months, the usual dose of anti-inflammatory or other medications may not be as effective as it is during the rest of the year. If this is the case, consider talking to a doctor about temporarily increasing the dosage.
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