Chilled to the Bone? How the Winter Affects Your Chronic Pain

Remember when you were young, and your grandma would say to you, “It’s going to rain. I can feel it in my bones.” It may have seemed magical at the time – your grandmother who could predict the weather – but she probably didn’t feel like a mystical being. It may have been her arthritis acting up due to upcoming changes in the weather.

These swings can occur during all seasons, but winter is an especially harsh season for a variety or combination of potential reasons. Note that much more research needs to be done in this area to determine specific causes for the increase in symptoms, but some general theories give us a clue at how to counteract the changes within our bodies.

  1. One school of thought suggests that the drop in barometric pressure that comes along with a change in weather causes swelling throughout the body, constricting arteries, reducing blood flow throughout the body.
  2. It’s been well-documented that a sedentary lifestyle can cause tremendous health problems – including worsening chronic pain symptoms. This is especially true for those suffering from joint issues. Lack of use can cause stiffening, and can reduce the strength of muscular tissue that’s essential for the stabilization of joints. During cold spells, people often hibernate. This can lead to the problems listed above.

Now that winter is here, you may find yourself struggling to deal with the chronic pain that you managed successfully in the past. Talk to your doctor about potential treatments that can help offset the effects of the cold weather, like physical therapy, joint injections, medications, and other procedures.

In the meantime, here are some things you can try at home to alleviate your pain.

  • Stay Warm Outside: Do what you can to keep your body at a stable temperature. If you find yourself tensing up in the cold, it could worsen your overall pain. Layer up, and use warm outdoor accessories whenever you go outside. Consider investing in air-activated hand and feet warmers if the weather person predicts a deep chill.
  • Turn up the Heat Indoors, too: If you can, turn the thermostat up a notch, enjoy a fire in the fireplace, and keep plenty of throw blankets on hand. Electric blankets can be a lifesaver, and a pair of cozy slippers can keep your feet warm. Self-care is important when it comes to managing chronic pain, and setting yourself up for success by prepping your home for cold weather is a smart way to stay ahead of pain symptoms.
  • Stay Active: On the winter’s coldest days, it’s hard to get out of bed in the morning – never mind take a jog. Nevertheless, it’s important to keep your joints moving. A great way to stay active is to utilize adult swim at your indoor community pool. You can also benefit from a yoga class. If you feel up to it, take a hot yoga class – a class that takes place in a highly-heated room. Remember to bring plenty of water!

Your doctor can help you create a customized plan that caters to your unique pain symptoms. Give us a call at (847)519-4701 to schedule your next appointment.

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