Can Weather Affect Fibromyalgia?
Do changes in the weather seem to aggravate your fibromyalgia symptoms? Perhaps you feel worse on a rainy day? Or maybe you experience flare-ups with changes in temperature and season? According to our friends at WebMD, approximately 92% of fibromyalgia patients report a worsening of symptoms associated with changes in weather. They also cite emerging research, however, that shows there may be more evidence against a correlation between fibromyalgia and weather than for it.
Lets take a closer look and sort out the evidence for and against this correlation and explore how to cope with the weather if you think it is affecting your symptoms.
In a study conducted last year by Utrecht University in the Netherlands, female patients with fibromyalgia answered questions related to their pain and fatigue for 28 consecutive days. Daily weather conditions, including air temperature, sunshine duration, precipitation, atmospheric pressure, and relative humidity, were obtained from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute and compared to the results of the questionnaires.
In 10% of the cases, weather showed a significant but small effect on either pain or fatigue. In 20% of the cases, the results suggested that symptoms of patients were, to a small extent, differentially affected by some weather conditions, for example, high pain with either low or high atmospheric pressure. The conclusion researchers reached was that while certain individuals are sensitive to weather conditions, there appeared to be more evidence against than in support of a uniform influence of weather on daily pain and fatigue in female patients with fibromyalgia.
I Still Believe Certain Weather Worsens My Symptoms? Am I crazy?
No, you’re not crazy. As we mentioned previously, as many as 92% of fibromyalgia patients report a worsening of symptoms due to certain weather conditions, so you’re not alone. It should also be noted that although the previously mentioned study reported there was more evidence against than for a weather correlation – it was only one study and more research is needed.
Weather conditions have long been associated with aggravating tender joints – especially among those suffering from chronic pain, so it is not a stretch that it could also affect the tender joints and muscles of fibromyalgia sufferers. Dr. James Fant from The University of South Carolina School of Medicine explained one possible reason for this correlation: “Suppose you have an inflamed joint that is subject to swelling,” said Fant. “If the barometric pressure is decreased, then that would allow the inflamed tissue to swell more, simply because there is less atmospheric pressure holding the tissue back. If there are nerves in that tissue, then those nerves would be stimulated by that swelling and that would translate into pain.” He also explained that cold weather could cause pain by shrinking inflamed tissue, which then pulls on the nerves and results in pain sensations.
Whatever the actual cause, it is clear that for many people the weather does have an impact of the severity of their symptoms. According to Lyne Matalana, President of the National Fibroymalgia Association, “A lot of studies have shown that patients have sensitivity to pain with both temperature extremes. I know people who have packed up and moved their families because they felt another part of the country would be more comfortable for them. It can be that intense.”
What Can I Do?
If you believe certain weather conditions are worsening your symptoms, keep a journal to document the conditions and how they affect you. Use this to determine possible conditions that may be aggravating your symptoms. Once you’ve identified the weather condition that you believe is affecting you, do your research and speak to other chronic pain sufferers to find out how they have coped with it. Online forums and support groups can be a great place to get information and advice from people who have experienced what you’re experiencing.
Here are a few coping strategies for the most common weather phenomena affecting fibromyalgia sufferers:
Dress in warm, comfortable, layered clothing. Avoid wearing tight fitting clothing as it can increase sensitivity to pain and restrict circulation.
Avoid drinking alcohol as it dilates the blood vessels and makes it more difficult to retain body heat.
Hand warmers are your friend. They can be particularly useful in your most painful spots.
Soak in a warm bath. Take a daily soak in a warm or hot bath. The hot water relaxes the muscles and releases pain blocking endorphins.
Stay hydrated: drink plenty of water or other liquids that will hydrate your body. Doing so will boost your body’s ability to regulate body temperate and perform other vital functions.
Stay cool: wear light, breathable clothing when possible and avoid going outside during the hottest times of the day – usually between 3 – 6 p.m. Regulating your body temperature through hydration, clothing and limiting outdoor activity in hot weather is critical to managing your symptoms.
Does weather affect your symptoms? If so, what tips and tricks have helped you to cope with the changes? Post a comment below or share your tips with us on our Facebook Page.