How Does Weather Affect Pain?
By Michelle Duclos, ATC
How Does Weather Affect Pain?
Recently, it seems we have had a weather front coming through Jacksonville every other week. For some of our patients, this causes their pain levels to change rapidly and drastically. Does the weather really affect pain levels?
While there is not widespread agreement among scientists about the relationship between changing weather and pain, there are some theories about the potential relationship. A significant drop in barometric pressure is the leading theory on this topic. Although many people say that their pain worsens with damp, rainy weather, research has shown that it’s not the cold, wind, rain, or snow. More likely, the drop in barometric pressure associated with bad weather is the cause for increased pain.
Barometric pressure refers to the weight applied to your body by the atmosphere. Imagine the capsules surrounding the joints are similar to a balloon. High barometric pressure, typically associated with good weather, regardless of the temperature, pushes against the body from the outside keeping these tissues from expanding. When a front comes through and the barometric pressure drops, the pressure applied to the “balloon” is less, allowing the tissues to expand. Research has come to mixed conclusions. There are some people who say that the barometric pressure does not affect their pain. While this re- mains just a theory, barometric pressure seems a likely explanation because barometric pressure does affect our bodies. Some patients have thought that moving to a place with a warmer climate will help their pain levels. However, as mammals, humans adjust to their environment, and this means that the body would adjust to the climate after living there for some time.
Tips To Reduce Chronic Pain
Here are some tips for dealing with fluctuating pain levels during weather changes:
1. Stay warm: Dress in layers. Keep your house warm. Warm up the car before you have to get in it for work or errands. Sleep under an electric blanket.
2. Try to prevent swelling: If you have joint pain in your hands, try wearing spandex gloves at night to keep swelling out of the joints. Wear compression stockings for joint pain in your legs.
3. Keep moving: before going out into the elements, try moving around the house.
4. Remember the pain is temporary: when inclement weather approaches, the barometric pressure drops are only temporary. The body will adjust to the barometric pressure changes.
5. You can use ice or heat on your joints when they are painful. To learn more about this, go to Ice or Heat?
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