Living with Chronic Pain
Weather and Chronic Pain
Changes in weather and weather extremes can increase pain levels for those with chronic pain. Although a direct link between weather and pain has not been scientifically proven, anecdotal evidence of the weather’s effects on pain is abundant.
Joint pain, especially arthritis, seems to be most affected by the weather. Other medical conditions that may worsen with changing weather conditions include migraines, fibromyalgia, sickle cell disease, and low back pain.
Weather factors, such as changes in barometric pressure, cold weather, hot weather, humidity, and precipitation, may increase pain levels.
- Changes in barometric pressure
As barometric pressure changes (e.g., a storm develops) muscles, tendons, and scar tissue can expand or contract, irritating already painful joints. A drop in barometric pressure can be a trigger for migraines, and a rise in barometric pressure can exacerbate symptoms of various chronic pain conditions, including fibromyalgia.
- Cold weather
Cold temperatures can stiffen muscles and joints, making movement more painful. This is especially true with arthritis. Cold weather activities, such as shoveling snow, can also aggravate back, neck, or other joint pain.
- Hot weather and humidity
Heat and humidity can increase pain in various ways. Hot weather and humidity often increase the levels of ozone in the air, which can exacerbate pain for those with fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and chronic fatigue syndrome. High temperatures and humidity can also increase overall levels of inflammation in the body, leading to more pain. Several types of headaches, including migraines, can also occur more often during the summer months. This could be due to dehydration, bright light, or sun glare.
Arthritis pain and other joint pain often increase on rainy or snowy days. In addition to the changes in barometric pressure that occur with precipitation, physical activity often decreases during unpleasant weather, and inactivity can lead to increased stiffness and pain. The mind/body connection may also be partially to blame as gloomy days may negatively affect mood, which can elevate the perception of pain.
Some people seem to be more sensitive to weather conditions than others. Individuals with chronic pain should track the types of weather that make their pain worse. Keeping an eye on weather forecasts and taking preventative measures can help reduce any negative effects weather has on pain levels.