Does Cold Weather Set Your Chronic Pain On Fire?

Winter is settling over the Aloha/Beaverton area with thirty degree weather, wind chills, and of course, rain. At this time of year, one of the most common questions we get from our clients with chronic pain --- weather that be arthritis, migraines, fibromyalgia, or joint problems-- is why they experience flare-ups in pain when the temperatures drop.

Scientists aren't in agreement about why cold weather seems to make symptoms worse for many patients. The leading theory explains that a spike in cold weather pain can be explained by barometric pressure, i.e. the weight of air around your body. Typically higher barometric pressures prevent the tissues in your body from expanding. During the winter months, the barometric pressures drops causing tiny expansions of tissues within the joint. Inflamed tissues place more pressure on the joint. Additionally many people with chronic pain suffer from central nervous sensitization that causes their nerves to become hypersensitive; highly sensitized nerves detect these small changes in tissue expansion and fire off pain signals.

So how can you beat the cold weather pain without packing your bags and moving from Aloha/Beaverton to somewhere sunny?

  1. Exercise and Physical Therapy: Having a regular exercise routine and getting some physical therapy will prevent your muscles and joints from getting stiff and sore as you spend more time indoors. Our Aloha & Beaverton physical therapists can discuss safe, effective exercises for relieving and preventing pain.
  2. Drink plenty of water to help your body process waste and promote recovery.
  3.  Apply heat pads to soothe aches and pain. Bundle up before you go outside to prevent your joints from getting overly stiff.
  4. Chiropractic adjustments can relieve pressure on irritated nerves, and keep your spine and joint healthy to minimize pain. Research shows that chiropractic adjustments are more effective than some drugs for relieving neck pain and back pain. They have also been found to be beneficial for reducing symptoms in patients with chronic pain disorders like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and migraine.
December 17, 2013
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Sunita Bhasin