Weather Sensitive Pain — Fact or Fiction?
Chances are, you’ve heard at least one person talk about having “bad weather aches.” Unlike regular chronic pain, weather sensitive pain seems to flare up with changes in the weather. To the average person, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason for it — how can the weather cause someone pain? Is it an old wives’ tale? The truth is, weather sensitive pain is all too real for the people suffering from it.
What triggers weather sensitive pain?
Many people assume their bad weather aches and pains come from bad weather, like rain, cold fronts, and dark cloudy days, but, for the most part, there’s a completely different culprit – barometric pressure (atmospheric pressure that indicates the pressure exerted by the weight of the air in the Earth’s atmosphere). Typically, people experience pain when the pressure is falling, but it is not impossible for them to experience pain from rising pressure either. The reason pain most often correlates with bad weather is that falling barometric pressure usually means a rain or cold front is on the way.
Why does it happen?
There are a couple of reasons why the body responds to barometric changes. One of the most important centers on something called the autonomic nervous system; that portion of the nervous system that works all by itself (think of how your fingers swell when it is hot and constrict when it is cold. You don’t tell them to do that – they do so on their own). The sympathetic nerves are a big component of the autonomic nervous system. Normally the sympathetic nerves have several automatic effects that impact the body’s including:
- The fight or flight response
- Constriction or dilation of blood vessels
- Pupil constriction or dilatation
- Control of heart rate and blood pressure
- Burning pain after straining a ligament
Sometimes the sympathetic system just does not work right. Sometimes it just goes wacky. When that happens during a period of falling or low barometric pressure, the sympathetic nervous system may cause you to have intense pain; pain in pretty much in any part of the musculoskeletal system, especially ones that have been injured.
Weather Sensitive Pain and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
When bad weather pains are severe enough, the sufferer might be diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) – a painful disorder that is a result of a malfunctioning sympathetic nervous system that just won’t quit. RSD has been given many names over the years. Currently, a popular one is Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). RSD sufferers can experience a variety of symptoms beyond aches and pains in the affected areas, like:
- And a large array of other abnormal sensations
Treating Weather Sensitive Pain
Pain that’s worsened by cold often responds well to heat, in the form of heating pads or Epsom salt baths. For some sufferers, stretching exercises can help reduce their pain and improve their mobility. Over-the-counter or prescription pain medication may help relieve temporary pain, but generally the best strategy is to improve circulation in the area with the goal of increasing blood flow. For people who don’t respond to home remedies however there is hope. We offer several treatments to manage weather sensitive pain, including the use of specialized medications and several other options that can provide relief without having to resort to medications.
While people who don’t suffer from weather sensitive pain may scoff at the idea, we know that it is very real and how it can have a terrible impact on quality of life for those who have it. Fortunately, there’s no need to suffer through bad weather induced aches and pain or to only rely on ineffective treatments — at Piedmont Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, we can help people with severe weather sensitive pain lead happy, normal, and productive lives.
Call us today at 1-864-235-1834 for an appointment to begin your journey toward pain-relief.