Cold Weather and Fibromyalgia
People who live with fibromyalgia have so many different things to consider when it comes to handling the muscle pain, fatigue, and myriad other symptoms associated with this syndrome. Flare-ups can be triggered by almost anything; from what you've just eaten to the stress your teenager is putting on you; from hot, humid summers to bitter cold and windy winter days. It just isn't fun.
Hot and Humid or Chilly and Cold?
Depending upon your particular sensitivities, you may find the warm weather of summer more tolerable than the cold, windy winters that occur in most of the Northern Hemisphere. The one thing that none of us can really pigeon-hole is which climate is best for you personally. Once again, it does depend upon your particular sensitivities. The one constant seems to be that extreme weather in either direction is particularly difficult for FMS people.
Some people with fibromyalgia find that weather that is a bit more on the cold side of things is more tolerable for them than hot, humid weather. Many people find hot weather intolerable and bad for their pain levels. A person is less likely to sweat in cold weather and the cold may have beneficial effects upon the pain centers in the brain. What is most interesting is that people with FM who are able to cope with weather at one end of the pole are incapable of coping at the other. Those who are able to manage hot summers can't cope with cold winters, and vise versa.
Winter and Fibromyalgia Pain
With the minimal amount of sunlight, shorter days, and cold weather, winter can be problematic for many who suffer with FMS. It may be the extreme cold, or it may be fluctuations in the weather with barometric pressure rising and falling that bothers you most. Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, medical director of Fibromyalgia & Fatigue Centers, a nationwide group of clinics, says, "A cold breeze blowing across an already-energy-deficient muscle will throw it into shortening, and shortened muscles are the primary and key cause of pain."
Some Comforting Strategies for Wintering Well
When the weather becomes brutal and your body is aching from the contraction of already tender muscles, using one of the following strategies may be useful in helping you escape some of the pain:
· Soak in a nice, warm or hot bath. Studies indicate there is therapeutic value for FMS pain by taking a soothing bath each night during the cold weather. The hot water not only comforts the muscles, but goes to the bones taking away the chill that contributes to fibromyalgia pain and symptoms.
· Wear loose, warm clothing that can be layered. Tight-fitting clothing can be bothersome for those with fibromyalgia as the constriction of tight clothing can further add to the feeling of pain already in the muscles. Layers allow you to stay warm and also give you the benefit of taking off a layer if you get too warm.
· If you have to go outside, be sure you have adequate and appropriate accessories to make the trek warm and safe from cold. Hats, gloves, scarves, and warm boots are all important to protect your body from the cold. Dr. Teitlebaum adds here that, "Interestingly, wearing wool long underwear and T-shirts, wearing wool pajamas, and having wool sheets and pillowcases can be as effective as pain medications for decreasing fibromyalgia pain but without the side effects." Wool is a natural fiber and has the ability to keep you warm as well as wick away moisture if you start sweating.
· Hand warmers, the kind that pop open and heat up, are a great companion for your hands and can ease the discomfort of FM symptoms.
· Avoid drinking alcohol because it dilates blood vessels and causes your body to lose heat.
· If you sweat a lot, be sure to blot off the perspiration and change into dry clothing as soon as possible. Chills can lead to exacerbated fibromyalgia symptoms and nothing brings the chills on faster than being wet from your own sweat.
· In extreme measures, some people have relocated to another part of the country or another part of the world to be able to live with their FMS symptoms. If you are spending months in pain because of the weather, you might want to consider a move.
Applying these strategies during the winter months can be helpful in easing the symptoms of fibromyalgia. To learn more about how the weather affects fibromyalgia symptoms and what the possible causes are for the impact, check out the article Weather & Fibromyalgia in this section.