Although it can’t be entirely explained with an exact reason, it can’t be ignored that heat and humidity worsens chronic pain conditions. Patients report that their pain increases when there is a change in the weather, which can be directly correlated to a shift in barometric pressure.
Rainy days are associated with chronic pain, when in fact, hot temperatures and high humidity levels are actually worse for pain.
Barometric Pressure and Chronic Pain
The weight of the air in the atmosphere is called barometric pressure. It is affected by the weather: low pressure means a storm or rainy weather is in the forecast, and high pressure means a clear day. A drop in pressure is often related to an increased amount of pressure in the joints.
Heat and humidity affects inflamed tissue and can negatively affect the way joints expand and contract.
Common Pain Conditions Affected By Heat
- Headaches. Tension headaches can be triggered by a change in weather. Shifts in humidity, temperature, and air pressure during the summer months can be a leading cause of dehydration, a common cause of headaches.
- Arthritis. Nearly 5% of older people with osteoarthritis reported joint pain due to hot weather. People with inflammatory arthritis have joint pain when the temperature changes, due to tissues expanding and contracting. This triggers pain and uncomfortability.
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Pain is not always a symptom that is associated with MS. However, it plays a large role in this chronic neurological disease. Anything that raises the body’s internal temperature can make the symptoms worse. A hot summer’s day worsens the pain, and in fact, it is so common that this condition has been named Uhthoff’s Syndrome. Once the body temperature has been regulated, the symptoms reduce and frequently go away.
- Fibromyalgia. Weather and fibromyalgia symptoms are linked when the weather is humid. People who suffer from rheumatological conditions have “temperature sensitivity” meaning extreme temperatures (both hot and cold) have worsening effects on pain and symptoms.
How to Prevent Pain from Heat
Heat in the summertime that causes joint pain can be prevented with a few tips and tricks.
- Stay Hydrated. Drinking water and maintaining proper fluid and electrolyte levels is important to preventing pain and symptoms that are caused by dehydration.
- Air Conditioning is Key. If heat and humidity cause pain flare ups, spending time in a regulated air conditioned area will maintain your body’s temperature. Too much time outside can affect joints and even have a negative effect on anti-inflammatory medication.
- Water Exercises. Swimming and water aerobics are a great way to alleviate joint pain and cool off in the summer heat. Low-impact cardio is great for those with chronic pain.
- Lightweight Clothing. Linen and light cotton clothing keep your body cool and allow it to breathe when it is hot. Tight clothing does not let sweat evaporate from the skin.