You've probably heard people say that they can actually feel the weather change, sometimes even before it does. Whether it's from an arthritis flare up or another kind of chronic pain, some are more deeply affected by the cold than others. The evidence linking low temperature and pain is mostly anecdotal, and research has had a hard time pinpointing why people feel this way.
Robert Newlin Jamison, PhD, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School, actually did some research to find out if weather can affect chronic pain. In a study published in the journal Pain, he observed the patterns of chronic pain and cold weather in San Diego, Nashville, Boston and Worcester (another Massachusetts city he said gets colder than Boston). He found that two-thirds of the participants said they were pretty sure weather affected their pain, with most reporting that they could sense the weather change coming before it actually did.
Dr. James Gladstone, co-director of sports medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, believes these complaints aren't ridiculous and has some ideas why sufferers of chronic pain often feel it more when cold weather hits.
"Arthritis affects everything else within the joint itself, including the joint lining, which we call the synovium, as well as the ligaments that are within the joint," Gladstone told weather.com. "All of those tissues have nerve endings in them, so they're going to feel changes in the weather as tightness in the joint, or stiffness."
Gladstone explained that cold causes muscles, ligaments and tendons to tighten up and feel stiff. To prevent this additional pain in the winter, he recommended properly warming up before any activity by stretching. To further protect your body in an outdoor activity, you should wear warm clothing.
To warm up, Gladstone said using heat creams and heating pads can help loosen stiff joints. Spine-Health.com also pointed out that inactivity in winter can also worsen this feeling. If the cold weather is preventing you from getting outside and being active, the site suggested indoor activities like walking on a treadmill. Moderate exercise like that can be enough to keep the winter pains at bay.
If you're experiencing chronic pain this winter, schedule an appointment with a professional chiropractor today.