If you suffer from chronic pain, you might have noticed that your pain flares up during certain weather conditions. People often used to dismiss this as an old wives’ tale, but scientific evidence for this weather-pain connection is getting stronger all the time. So, can the weather really cause your chronic pain to flare up?
How the weather can affect your pain
Landmark study Cloudy with a Chance of Pain analysed pain in over 2600 participants. Researchers found that higher humidity, lower pressure, and stronger winds were strongly associated with increased pain levels, conclusively proving that the weather does in fact influence pain.
Another study found that with each 10-degree drop in temperature, people experienced an increase in pain. This is likely due to your soft tissues become tighter and firmer during cold weather, resulting in stiffness and painful muscle spasms.
Doctors believe that air pressure can also play a part in pain. When the temperature drops, the barometric pressure drops with it. As your body experiences less pressure from the environment, your tissues expand and put pressure on the surrounding joints.
And it’s not just the weather itself that affects pain; changes in the weather can cause problems too. One theory is that when the temperature – and therefore the pressure – changes, the level of fluid around your joints may also change, affecting how your joints move and feel. This could explain why some people find hot temperatures worse, while others feel the pain more in the cold.
How to ease weather-related pain flare-ups
It may feel disheartening to know that the weather has such an influence on your pain when there’s nothing you can do about it. However, you can take steps to combat the weather’s effects.
Plan. If you know a weather trigger is coming, you can plan to minimise its effects. Use the Weather Flare app to see when triggering weather conditions are approaching, and schedule your most strenuous activities for better days or calmer hours.
Regulate your body temperature. As a chronic pain sufferer, you may find that your body struggles to regulate its own temperature. That means it takes a little extra effort to keep yourself at a comfortable temperature. When the weather is hot, drink extra water, avoid the hottest parts of the day, and wear light, loose clothing to stay cool. When the weather gets cold, layer up your clothes, make use of hot water bottles, and take warm showers or baths to soothe your achy joints.
Get some exercise. The Cloudy with a Chance of Pain study found that physical activity was very helpful in managing chronic pain. No matter the weather, it’s really important to keep active. Mix it up so you don’t get bored, going outside on good days and then working out at home on bad days. Consider yoga, an exercise bike, swimming, dancing, or even day-to-day activities like gardening to keep you moving.
Avoid caffeine. Large amounts of caffeine can cause blood vessels to temporarily narrow, restricting blood flow to your extremities and aggravating nerve pain. Instead of coffee, stay hydrated with water, herbal teas, or sugar- and caffeine-free cold drinks.
We’re currently in the beta testing phase of the Weather Flare app, which is available to download on iOSand Android. Download it today and see how it can help you, then pop back and give us your feedback so we can make it even better!