If you have a chronic pain condition such as fibromyalgia, your symptoms can be exacerbated by cold weather. Winter temperatures affect pain in several ways. First, patients tend to spend more time staying warm indoors, and this decrease in activity may increase stiffness and fatigue. Muscle tightness and spasms also become more likely. Another factor that can play a role is overly sensitive nerves that may react unpleasantly to even small temperature fluctuations. Whatever the reason, many people report an increase in their pain during the colder months. Here are five tips to help you get relief when temperatures plummet.
Dress in layers
Dressing appropriately is your first line of defense against the cold. Wear clothes that fit loosely and comfortably but are substantial enough to trap heat. You can also add layers such as wool underwear, sweaters, socks, gloves, and scarves to help keep yourself as warm as possible without sacrificing mobility or having to crank up the thermostat.
It may be tempting to curl up under a pile of blankets and watch TV, but long periods of inactivity will only aggravate your pain. Staying active does two essential things: first, it helps you stay warm, thereby fighting pain naturally. Second, it keeps your muscles from becoming tight and your joints from becoming stiff. Stretch, walk, and do whatever exercises you can to keep your body moving regularly.
Pay attention to your diet
You can help fight pain-causing inflammation with a nutritious, whole-foods diet. Eating plenty of foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats will ensure that you are doing everything you can to bolster your immune system. Aim to have lots of different colors on your plates for the broadest range of vitamins. For added protection, use plenty of cumin and turmeric in your food and reap the anti-inflammatory benefits of these spices.
Apply heat (in moderation)
Warm packs and heating pads can relieve pain in cold, stiff joints. However, use caution. Many people have fallen asleep and ended up with severe burns on their skin. In general, you should use heat for no more than 20 minutes at a time (10 if you have neuropathies such as those caused by diabetes). Also, make sure that your doctor knows that you are using heat and agrees that it’s safe for you.
Skip the nightcaps
It may seem like an alcoholic beverage or two warms you up, but that toasty feeling is misleading. Alcohol causes your blood vessels to dilate, allowing your body to lose heat. Instead of wine or liquor, reach for hot herbal tea or soup to warm you from the inside out and help you relax, sleep better, and enjoy significant pain relief.
At Redefine Healthcare, we see many patients with chronic pain conditions and are familiar with how cold weather can affect pain. If you are struggling with illness, contact us today for a consultation. We’ll help determine the cause of your pain and a treatment plan to get you feeling better.