Is there a link between the weather and chronic pain? We all know of someone who swears they can tell when a storm is coming based on their knee pain or their shoulder acting up. In fact, many chronic pain sufferers believe that changes in the weather have a direct effect on their pain. The truth is there may be some validity to weather forecasting based on pain, specifically joint pain.
A chief physiologist at the pain management center at Women’s Hospital in Boston looked closely to see if there was a link between changes in weather and the pain patterns in those who suffer with chronic pain. People from multiple cities who suffered with chronic pain were asked if they believed there was any correlation between the changes in the weather and their pain level. An overwhelming two-thirds of participants stated that they believed there was a connection between their pain and the weather. Some even stated that they were able to feel the changes to their pain before the weather changed.
While there is still no one definitive explanation among scientists about the cause of this correlation, there are many theories. The most common theory involves something called barometric pressure.
Barometric pressure refers to the air pressure in the atmosphere that surrounds us. The theory is that barometric pressure keeps our body tissue from expanding. It is a very minimal pressure that we would never notice. When the air pressure drops, as it does when a storm is about to hit, our body tissue expands on a microscopic level that goes unnoticed unless this microscopic expansion is putting pressure on your already painful joints.
While there is no conclusive evidence that changes in the weather is directly linked to chronic pain, the experiences of those who suffer with pain tell a different story. Many people worldwide are certain that they are connected. Of course, there are others whose pain does not seem to be affected by bad weather. The studies have had mixed results and therefore, it cannot be said conclusively that bad weather does have an effect on chronic pain.
That being said, there are measures that you can take to try and better manage your chronic pain when the weather is bad.
First and foremost, stay warm. Try wearing layers when it is cold out. Protect the areas of pain from the cold during the winter months by dressing warm. Cold can aggravate joint pain and stiffness. Also keeping your hands and feet warm are essential, especially for those who suffer from arthritic pain. You can also apply heat packs to the affected area to help ease the pain.
Try to do more moving before going out into the cold. Even taking part in a light exercise at home before going out into the cold can help manage your pain and reduce stiffness.
It is also important to remember that when pain is made worse due to a change in the weather, this is not a permanent change. How pain is perceived has an effect on the pain itself. Pain comes and goes. It changes from day to day. Understanding your pain and the appropriate pain management is the key to living a quality life with chronic pain.