Anecdotally many people with joint pain will report that their pain is worse in the colder months. You, yourself may be nodding your head right now and agreeing with this statement. But is this true? Does the cold weather make your pain worse? In short the answer is yes, BUT it’s not the weather change, its everything else that is associated with the colder times.
When the weather gets cooler our moods change, we experience a drop in our moods. This drop in mood or low moods are associated with higher levels of perceived pain. If you follow our blogs, you will have read our blog about chronic pain but for those of you who haven’t here is a quick summary. Pain is a nervous system response, it is a normal body function however with chronic pain sufferers the nervous system becomes highly sensitive. The nervous system sends signals to your brain, informing it of danger and in turn we feel pain to warn us against potential harm. As pain is a nervous system response it is effected by other factors including: our thoughts and perceptions, our moods, our sleep, our diet and exercise level. So the cold weather is changing your level of pain, its your change in mood because of the cold weather.
Something that also happens to even the best of us in the cold weather is that we stop moving so much. We experience stiffness and tightness with the colder weather, so we move less and this in turn increases stiffness and tightness. Yes, I know it’s easy to say get up and exercise but trying to get out of bed early mornings or go outside in the cooler weather to do so is a tough challenge. Perhaps changing up your exercise regime to accommodate for the cold weather will help reduce the impact that the cold weather has on you. Remember motion is lotion and moving a joint helps to provide it with lubrication, blood supply and correct nerve signals. Just keep in mind your warm up prior to exercise may need to be a little longer to help prepare the body for exercise.
Our thoughts are so powerful, what we think and perceive shapes our reality. So if we think the cold weather makes our pain worse you are right! If you also think the cold weather doesn’t affect your pain, you are also right! The point is what we think about our pain becomes our reality, if we think the cold weather makes it worse it does. Sounds like a simple fix, but unfortunately our brain likes to develop patterns and habits and if for years we have thought the cold weather makes our pain worse than it’s going to take some consistent change in perspective to alter that.
There is little scientific research out there to support the idea that cold weather directly increases pain. The evidence is insufficient and not significant enough to come to this conclusion. However, cold weather indirectly effects our pain due to these changes in our behaviours. So to fight this increase in pain keep moving which will also boost your mood and change how you think about the cold weather and your pain.