How Do Changes in Seasons or Weather Affect Chronic Pain?

How Do Changes in Seasons or Weather Affect Chronic Pain?

Headaches that hit right before rainstorms. Tingling nerve pain that gets sharper in the summer. Painful joints that seem to ache even more when the weather turns cold. If any of these experiences sound familiar, you’re not imagining things.

The weather and the environment around you affects your body in undeniable ways. Residents of the northeastern United States experience hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. And for many people living with chronic pain, these changes make symptoms worse.

Eric Fanaee, MD — with locations in West Islip, Smithtown, and Bethpage, New York — takes a personalized approach to chronic pain. He understands how seasonal changes can affect people who have chronic conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, and nerve pain, and he’s here to help.

How weather changes affect your body

Pain is a personal experience. What makes pain worse for one person might not have the same effect on another, and the exact effects of weather on chronic pain is something experts are still studying.

However, there are a few ways that weather changes could be affecting the way you feel:

Barometric pressure

Barometric pressure, or atmospheric pressure, measures the pressure of air in the atmosphere. Barometric pressure changes with the weather, and low pressure often brings clouds, wind, and storms.

When barometric pressure is low, air puts less pressure on your body. This allows your tissues to expand more than usual, sometimes squeezing nearby nerves. For some people, dramatic changes in barometric pressure cause increased joint pain or headaches.

Humidity

Humidity measures moisture in the air. In the Northeast, humidity is typically higher in the summer and lower in the winter. Warm summer temperatures and rainfall tend to make air moist, while cold temperatures and forced heat make air dry outside and inside in the winter.

If you have arthritis or another type of chronic joint pain, you might find that your joints are sensitive to changes in humidity. Unusually high or low humidity can make joints swell and feel more painful.

Temperature

Temperature can also affect your body and your perception of pain. Average high temperatures on Long Island range from 38° F in January to 82° F in July, and both extremes may exacerbate chronic pain.

Hot temperatures can make pain feel worse, and for people with conditions like multiple sclerosis, heat can trigger Uhthoff’s phenomenon, which causes worsening nerve pain. Cold temperatures can make joints feel stiffer and more painful, especially for people with arthritis.

Weather, chronic pain, and your mood

If the weather itself isn’t the cause of your worsening pain, the effect of changing seasons could be to blame. People are less likely to go outside and exercise when the weather is cold, and inactivity can contribute to chronic pain and joint stiffness.

Depression is more common in the winter than in any other season. Having depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) can heighten your sensitivity to pain and make your chronic condition feel worse in the wintertime.

How to manage winter aches and pains

Chronic pain can be debilitating, no matter the season. And if you’ve noticed that your pain gets worse at certain times of the year, it’s time to stop suffering in silence.

Dr. Fanaee is here to help, and he starts by identifying your pain triggers. He performs a comprehensive physical exam, discusses your symptoms, and partners with you to find a pain management solution that works.

For example, physical therapy or a gentle exercise routine can help you stay active and maintain joint flexibility in the cold winter months. Taking steps to stay warm can help you avoid the unpleasant effects of temperature fluctuation. 

The changing of seasons doesn’t have to mean worsening pain. Contact Eric Fanaee, MD, at 631-265-2020 or book an appointment online to get started finding relief.

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