It’s commonly reported that cold, rainy weather makes chronic pain worse, but many people say they experience more pain when the weather gets hotter, too. If you’ve noticed more aches and pains when the mercury rises, you’re probably wondering why this happens and – more importantly – what you can do about it. Read on to find out more…
Does heat actually affect chronic pain?
You’re not imagining it! Hotter weather really can make your chronic pain worse. Landmark study Cloudy with a Chance of Pain found that humidity and low pressure – both associated with warmer weather – can aggravate chronic pain.
Why does heat affect chronic pain?
We know that the fluid around your joints is affected by the temperature, becoming thicker in warmer weather. The joints themselves also expand, along with your muscles and tendons. For you, this means increased pressure and restricted movement in the joints, leading to stiffness, inflammation and pain.
We also know that certain chronic pain conditions, like fibromyalgia, can affect how your body regulates its temperature. Hot weather can make even the healthiest people feel more lethargic, but if you’re already struggling with a chronic pain condition and you can’t cool yourself down, you’re likely to feel much greater effects. And of course, the more tired you are, the less you move, and the worse your pain gets.
Additionally, when heat and humidity increase, the ozone levels in the environment increase too. For people with chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, changes in the ozone levels can worsen symptoms.
How to cope in the heat
Plan to avoid the worst of the heat. Use the Weather Flare app to see which days are likely to worsen your symptoms. You can then plan which days to go out, and which days to stay inside in the shade. And if you do need to go out, you can also use the app to avoid the hottest parts of the day.
Get some good sleep. Poor sleep has been linked to more severe chronic pain, so if the heat is affecting your sleep, then your sleep is affecting your pain. Keep the windows and curtains in your bedroom closed during the day, and open the windows at night to let cooler air in. Use light cotton sheets and wear cotton pyjamas that will wick sweat away from your skin. You can also try using a fan.
Stay hydrated. It’s easy not to drink enough water in hot weather, but that’s when you need it most! Dehydration is known to aggravate chronic pain and cause headaches, so keep a water bottle with you all the time and sip frequently throughout the day.
Get comfortable. Flip flops may feel cooler, but if you’re walking without supportive footwear, this can affect the joints in your feet, legs and back. Think about where you sit too; park benches can be hard, uncomfortable and unsupportive for aching joints. Take a comfy fold-up chair to BBQs, picnics or parks so you can enjoy yourself without paying the price later!
Swimming. It soothes your joints and cools you down – win-win!
Light activity. Exercise and movement are crucial for strengthening your muscles, stabilising your joints, and ultimately reducing pain. Choose a low-impact activity that won’t cause you too much strain, such as walking, exercise biking, yoga, Pilates, dance, swimming, or even everyday activities like gardening.
We can’t stop the heat, but we can lessen its impact on our pain. The Weather Flare app is especially designed to help people with chronic health conditions. Download it today on iOS and Android and see how it can help you. We’re currently in the beta testing phase of the app, and would love your feedback so we can make it as helpful as possible.