Does Cold Weather Affect Chronic Pain Symptoms?

Effects of Cold Weather on Chronic Pain in Santa Monica, CA

There’s a difference of opinion between the scientific community and people with chronic pain, at least when it comes to the role cold weather plays in such pain. While evidence of a correlation between seasonal changes and recurring pain is iffy at best, patient experiences tell a different story.

An Increase in Noticeable Symptoms

The one point on which patients and some researchers can agree is that cold weather may aggravate symptoms associated with chronic pain. Patients with osteoarthritis (a type of arthritis characterized by the gradual degeneration of flexible joint tissue), for instance, tend to report noticeable shifts in pain with changes in temperature. Chronic pain symptoms possibly affected by cold weather include:

  • Swelling around joints
  • Inflammation near the spine
  • Muscle stiffness or tightening

 

Cold Weather and Issues with Circulation

Poor circulation is a symptom of many chronic conditions, and the scientific community agrees that cooler weather affects circulation. For patients with underlying conditions like diabetes, decreased circulation can aggravate problems with joint and back pain.

Changes in the Perception of Pain

One of the possible reasons for the disconnect between scientists and some patients with cold weather pain issues may be the very nature of pain itself. While Beverly Hills spine surgeons can often accurately pinpoint the cause of chronic pain through x-rays and MRIs, pain itself is subjective. Consequently, it’s entirely possible that changes in weather can change the interpretation of pain for some people.

Amplification of Pain Signals

Another theory on the possible connection between cold weather and increased chronic pain involves bodily changes. Blood vessels in limbs constrict, or shrink, to compensate for a loss of heat to maintain the body’s core temperature. As a result, pain signals sent via nerves may be amplified.

While some people with chronic pain do report feeling better when moving to a warmer climate, the body typically adjusts to new climates over time, so relief is likely to be temporary. A good workout, soaking in a tub of warm water, and applying heat packs or warming gel are just a few of the remedies chronic pain sufferers can use to counter perceived changes in pain when cooler weather arrives.

For people experiencing chronic back pain without adequate relief, it might be time to consider professional treatment options. Call (310) 828-7757 to learn more about surgical procedures like traditional spinal fusion and lumbar laminectomy as well as conservative spine treatments.