Does it feel like your back pain gets worse when the weather is cold, stormy or changeable? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone.
Every person is different, so it’s difficult to be sure why erratic weather seems to make back pain, arthritis and headaches feel more severe. It has been observed that a drop in barometric pressure allows tissue around the joints to expand slightly, which can result in worsening symptoms.
Cold weather can cause tension in muscles – this is part of the rationale for ‘warming up’ before exercise, as heat helps to release stiffness from connective tissues. When accompanied by rain and grey skies, cold weather can contribute to low mood and irritability, which can absolutely make arthritis, back pain and stiff necks feel worse.
Variation in weather from warm to cold and dry to rainy over a short period of time can also tamper with our equilibrium, as the way we experience pain can be closely tied to being accustomed to a certain kind of temperature and air pressure. A drop in barometric pressure that brings on rainy weather can cause arthritic joints to swell. This causes joint pain and is the reason some people say they can tell when it is going to rain from achey joints.
Managing weather-related pain isn’t straightforward, but there are many things you can do to help.
- Apply a warm compress to areas that become stiff and uncomfortable during the onset of cold weather, or massage pressure points yourself using gentle but firm pressure. This helps blood flow return to the affected area, promoting healing and releasing tension from connective tissue.
- Get outside as often as possible. If the weather is bright and sunny, absorption of vitamin D helps bone and tissue health as well as improving mood, which is essential for lessening pain. However, even if it’s not sunny it’s still a good idea to spend as much time outside as you can, particularly in the morning. This helps to regulate your circadian rhythm and encourages gentle exercise, both of which can alleviate symptoms.
- Stay active. No matter the weather, it’s important to keep moving and not remain sedentary for too long, as this can cause joints to seize up and for pain to get worse. If the weather allows it, go for a thirty minute stroll. If it’s cold or rainy, try at-home yoga, pilates or aerobics. If possible, walk or cycle to and from work instead of driving.
- Stay hydrated. Changes in barometric pressure can trigger headaches and make muscle tension feel far worse – both of which are greatly exacerbated by dehydration. Drink regular glasses of water throughout the day and don’t rely too much on caffeinated drinks like tea or coffee. If you want to take extra steps to reduce inflammation and joint pain, it’s a good idea to invest in a good quality fish oil supplement. Fish oil has been proven to slow the progression of bone density loss, lower blood pressure and relieve the symptoms of arthritis.