Is There A Scientific Correlation Between Pain And Weather?

Debbie asks the question: 'Can The Weather Affect My Pain?'

ByMichael Clark, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

— -- Question: My name is Debbie, and I have chronic pain as a result of a back injury. And it seems to me that weather influences my pain, and I'm wondering if I'm just imagining it, or if there's some sort of scientific correlation between pain and weather?

Answer: Hi, Debbie. This is a very common experience of patients with chronic pain. The weather changes and their pain gets worse, or the weather changes, and in some way, they just feel worse.

The important thing to know is that while there's a literature on this particular issue, there is no clear answer as to what is actually happening. Many theories have been proposed, and probably many theories are correct. So, for example, when the barometric pressure drops as a storm comes in to your area, you may experience differences in your body that are, in part, due to swelling or changes of that pressure in a particular area.

Similarly, if you think about changes in temperature that occur with storms, oftentimes patients with chronic pain are sensitive to colder temperatures. This might occur because of the autonomic nervous system and its activity in the body; this might occur because of nerves that are damaged and now are more sensitive to those type of stimuli, like heat or cold.

You might also think about how temperature affects just our general bearing. When the temperature drops, when the weather's not as pleasant, you tend to tighten up, you tend to guard an area that's injured. And as a result, it becomes more painful, more stiff, and less flexible.

All of these things come together, and make your situation worse rather than better. So, you can prepare for those changes by trying to keep yourself in as good a condition as possible, dressing appropriately, and thinking about how you can stay mobile and not retreat when the weather changes. That will help keep you going.

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