Why is Chronic Pain Worse in Cold Weather?
Cold Weather and Chronic Pain Do Not Mix
Millions of people live with chronic pain every year. Whether they suffered an injury or live with a chronic condition, this pain is often debilitating. However, as the weather begins to cool down, those living with chronic pain may start to notice this pain worsening. You might have heard someone you know complain that their joints hurt as a storm or cold front arrives.
For some reason or another, weather (specifically cold weather) affects our bodies in different ways. As the weather continues to drop, people with chronic pain continue to complain about cold weather pain. The colder the weather is, the worse people’s chronic pain gets.
Surprisingly, there is not much research that clearly identifies why cold weather leads to increased pain. There are countless factors that play a role in these increased levels of pain. Regardless of why it happens, millions of people experience this pain in the fall and winter. Fortunately, there are ways to manage this pain.
Chronic pain can be debilitating. Activities you once enjoyed and did with ease become difficult and painful, leaching the fun out of them. Unfortunately, as the weather continues to cool down, this pain may only get worse. If you are looking for quality pain management treatment, give the Frisco pain management clinic at Texas Partners Healthcare Group a call today to learn how we can help.
How Cold Weather Worsens Pain
Even though you have likely heard people complain about increased pain when the weather gets cold, you might be surprised to hear that the amount of research regarding cold weather and chronic pain is small. Experts are still unsure if or how cold weather worsens chronic pain.
For example, one study involving 200 participants found that changes in barometric pressure and temperature led to increased osteoarthritic knee pain. However, different studies’ results have been inconclusive or shown no correlation.
However, healthcare experts have theories as to why cold weather worsens chronic pain:
- Changes in Barometric Pressure: When barometric pressure changes (whether lower or higher), it triggers an inflammatory reaction in your joints, often occurring for those with arthritis. Experts deduce that as the cartilage in the joints wears away, nerves in the exposed bones might react to the changes in pressure.
- Less Blood Circulation: Lower temperatures cause liquids to thicken. That also means the blood in your body gets thicker, which causes it to circulate slower and less efficient. Slower circulation can lead to stiffness and pain in your extremities.
- Tightens Muscles: Heat is a natural muscle relaxer, reducing tension in your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, which reduces pain. Cold does the opposite. It tightens these tissues up, causing stiffness and muscle tension.
- Decreases Physical Activity: Naturally, people try to stay inside to avoid the cold. However, doing so prevents you from being physically active. Exercise keeps your blood pumping and warms up your body while building strength and improving flexibility. It also regulates your weight, which is vital in pain management. The more stationary you are, the more likely your pain will worsen.
- Changes in Nerve Sensitivity: The cold changes the way your nerves respond to stimuli, which increases their sensitivity to outside forces like cold weather.
Conditions Worsened by Cold Weather
Cold weather affects the body in a myriad of ways. It often causes those suffering from a host of chronic pain conditions to hurt more. One of the chief complaints patients report in the winter and fall is worsened joint pain, but cold weather affects many different chronic pain conditions.
Some of the conditions most affected include:
- Neck pain
- Joint pain
- Knee pain
- Hip pain
- Back pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
If you live with any of the above chronic pain conditions, you might experience increased levels of pain as we enter the colder months of winter. Fortunately, there are numerous things you can do to manage this pain and find pain relief. If your pain becomes unbearable, however, do not hesitate to contact the pain management doctors at TXP.
Managing Chronic Pain in the Cold
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to stop the cold weather from happening. It is a natural part of our planet. However, if you do suffer from chronic pain and know that cold weather is coming, you can prepare yourself for potentially worse pain.
While you can’t stop the cold from coming, you can manage your pain better during the winter and fall months. Some tips you can do to manage your pain include:
- Use Heat Therapy: apply a hot compress, heating pads, warm towels, etc.
- Take Warm Baths: or take a swim in a heated pool (hot tubs and saunas also work)
- Stay Active: while you may be tempted to sit inside throughout the winter, being physically active keeps your blood pumping and your body warm
- Travel to Somewhere with a Warmer Climate: (if you have the resources)
- Stay Hydrated: the colder the weather, the dry the air, which causes us to lose moisture, so we must stay hydrated
- Maintain Your Vitamin D Levels: throughout the winter months, people spend more time indoors, which causes us to be vitamin D deficient, leading to muscle, joint, and bone pain
These are just a handful of simple things you can do on your own to manage your pain throughout the winter. However, if your pain persists and worsens in the cold, you should reach out to a pain management doctor to discuss your options.
Contact a Frisco Pain Management Clinic
As the weather starts to cool down, those with chronic pain might be getting ready for worsened pain. Unfortunately, healthcare experts are not quite sure why the cold weather affects our bodies the way it does. Regardless, there are plenty of things you can do to find pain relief during the winter months.
However, if your pain persists even after completing many of these tasks, you may need further treatment. Give Texas Partners Healthcare Group a call today and let us help you find pain relief.