Coping with Cold Weather

Posted by on Oct 5, 2012 in Everyday Tips, Fibro Pics, Managing Fibro | 9 comments

Coping with Cold Weather

BRRR! Winter is on its way here in the Pacific Northwest.  The hint that winter is coming is everywhere; in the crisp evenings, the colored leaves falling to the ground, and the extra pain in my body.  The nights are getting bone biting cold, but the days are still warm.

That’s right, for me winter, cold, and changes to barometric pressure mean more pain. The cold winter air simply seeps into my body wreaking havoc, especially when it is cold at night and warm during the day.

In the past, there has been some dispute over whether the weather and cold, really affect people with Fibromyalgia, but as many people with Fibromyalgia will tell you: it does!

Dealing with the weather changes in particular can be downright difficult for those of us with Fibromyalgia.  The weather changes also affect people with arthritis and other chronic illnesses.
There are several theories as to why it hurts more during cold weather and seasonal changes including the temperature changes lead to a change in your sleep cycle, your internal clock (circadian rhythm) gets out of whack due to less sunshine, or your body creates more pro-inflammatory cytokines due to the low temperatures causing more pain.  For some of us, this can also be due to Seasonal Affective Disorder, a form of depression that occurs during the winter months.

Whatever the reason, the simple fact is many people with Fibromyalgia, including myself, experience an increase in overall pain during seasonal changes or when it is cold outside.  Over the years of dealing with the extra pain as the seasons change and during extreme cold especially, I have found some helpful ways of coping.

The top 5 things I recommend to survive the cold comfortably are:

1.Heating pad
2.Warm Baths
3.Layers of Clothes
4.Heating (indoors and in the car)
5.Extra Light Inside

This probably seems pretty simple, but it is trickier in many ways than it sounds.  Obviously, when it is cold out, we should wear layers so we can adjust, but if the layers are too heavy or too tight I end up in more pain (clothes touching my skin can cause pain too) or if the bath feels great, but then I step into cold air, the benefit is quickly lost.  I find that taking baths at night just prior to going to bed is really helpful during the colder months.

Another helpful tip is to preheat your car before going for a drive. It will take longer for you to leave your home, but once you do leave, you’ll be cocooned in warmth and won’t have to deal with as much time in the cold.

Also, I like to have extra lights on inside during the winter, so my house is bright and cheerful. For those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, this can help a lot, especially if you use halogen bulbs or special lights designed for this.

So rather than focus entirely on what I do, I asked my readers if the cold or weather changes affects them and if so what they do to combat it.  They gave me some fantastic answers and advice.

Many of my readers use the same things as me, but some go an extra mile like adding Epson salts or lavender to the warm bath or staying wrapped up in an electric blanket all day or keep moving or wear extra thick socks.  Also, many readers turn to medication when all else fails.

Everyone who participated agreed that weather changes and cold do affect them. I’m going to share some of the comments from my readers.

I genuinely believe that hearing solutions from people who have Fibromyalgia is very beneficial for others, especially when you get a chance to see that you are not alone AND you get the chance to learn ways to cope with a symptom. As a result, I opted to share a bunch of the comments.

Here are the comments from my readers:

“Weather is my worst enemy! Temperature changes are bad enough, but humidity and rain are the worst. I mostly have to “ride it out” and wait for a break in the weather and spend most hours on a heating pad in a recliner.”

“I know for a fact my pain comes on stronger as weather changes. I take hot baths and keep my extremities covered. My muscles ache more and my fibro fog seems worse.”

“I take Tylenol and just cope with the pain. Allergic to most medications. Although can take a low does of Lyrica, which does help some.”

“This time of year as the weather gets cooler I have to be very sure I stay warm. Cold really makes me hurt more.”

“Cold weather affects my legs the worst. I wear knee high socks, or winter socks that are extra thick to help combat the cold. And I sleep with several blankets on so my body has a chance to rest and I don’t wake up with as many aches and pains.”

“Cold weather and when the frost goes in the ground and comes out of the ground makes my whole body hurt really bad also when a front goes thru nothing relieves the pain. Vicodin does nothing might as well drink water.”

“Last week the temperatures started dropping down in 30’s range. Yes it effects me, I also have osteoarthritis and last week was awful my bones and muscles had chronic pain in them, muscles were very tight, I hurt head to toe, I use solanpas patches and take tylenol and aleve together it only takes the edge off so I can function I can’t take anything stronger because everything so far the Dr has prescribed makes me really sick . So I rather do things in pain then be sick from the meds and off my feet and cannot do anything. And I soak in the tub as hot as I can stand and of course that lasts until you get out. I miss the warm mornings. I am not looking forward to the snow and cold weather coming.”

“yes i have the same thing if hurting a lot of times pain pills do not help..exactly like taking water..:>( …this is a crazy condition with many roots like a big tree.. branching out…”

“I know what you mean even though my bedroom is heated, I still put on an electric blanket and crank it up, it helps from getting up in the so stiff.”

“Yes, change in weather effects me BIG time. The colder I get the more I hurt. Especially my legs. I have an electric throw I keep on my recliner for when the legs start to ache.”

“The pain is much worse all over my body when the weather changes. Rain also makes it bad. Do my best to stay warm. Have an electric blanket on my bed and on my couch for when it gets too bad. I do take Vicodin to take the edge off if I have to go somewhere or things I need to get done. It makes it even harder with staying warm, I am also going through menopause so trying to keep really warm can then bring on hot flashes. It is quite a battle.”

“I am much better with cooler weather, if it’s changing or too hot I get really painful fibro flares. I try to maintain the indoor temp as best I can and take appropriate showers or baths with epson salts to sometimes help.”

“I am much better with cooler weather, if it’s changing or too hot I get really painful fibro flares. I try to maintain the indoor temp as best I can and take appropriate showers or baths with epson salts to sometimes help.”

“For me its the transition of seasons more so than the cold..But once the seasons has changed I’d much rather the cold as long as the temps do not fluctuate..get cold and stay cold…don’t do the roller coaster thing…I just grit my teeth and bare it…I know better days are coming…hopefully”

“I am very much affected by weather, I find that i do best on a nice humid day in the eighties. If it’s too dry my skin, eyes, and sinuses suffer, if its too hot my fatigue flares up, and if its too cold my bones, muscles, and head ache terribly.I use a heating blanket for sleep, and a pad during the day, hot baths, natural muscle rub, etc. I feel that since I am sick no matter the season I find it unbearable to live somewhere that cycles all four seasons. I only look forward to summer time and dread spring fall and winter because I know I am going to suffer that much more. Seeing that i know so well what weather I fair best in, I am honestly debating moving to southern california so that I dont have to worry as much about my flare ups being worsened even more from the weather.”

“Very much! Cold fronts and storms. If I know ahead of time I take a bit extra meds. Sometimes it works…”

“My close friends use me as a human barometer! Changes in atmospheric pressure especially low fronts, changes in temp of 9 degrees or more, and rain! I try to go to bed earlier, stretch more, and take hot baths… but mostly I try to grin and bear it! :)

“Very much …storm fronts cold fronts and barometric pressure changes KILL ME …”

“I know, cold chills me even if I’m not cold. shoulders and arms. Heat burns me like a fire is burning.”

“I was diagnosed 10 yrs ago when I was living in Maine. We moved to northern Arizona 5 yrs ago and living where it’s warmer has definitely helped. However… summer monsoon season brings on increased pain. And now that I’ve acclimated, I am back to increased pain in the fall as the weather cools off. Fibro fog is worst in the fall too. I rarely ever have any pain-free days…”

“Yes!I am not only sensitive to extreme weather condition like hot and cold,but I have noticed my symptoms worsen with sudden climate changes.I can almost predict rain or humid weather.I feel really run down,ache all over.My body feels like it’s weighed down or being compressed. I haven’t really found anything to calm my symptoms totally,but I try to get extra rest/relax and make myself as comfortable as possible with showers,cold packs,and flexall.”

“So right… I too have a difficult time with extreme temps, I even have to wear gloves to take things out of the freezer and warm showers instead of hot. I live in Northern Minnesota and the Winters get very difficult,. No matter how warm I dress the cold goes right to my bones and makes me ache even more. But when it does get very warm at times in the summer I find it very difficult to function. Winter I try to stay in as much as possible and sleep with Flannel PJs heavy robe, socks and lots of blankets. Summer if it gets hot I use lots of fans, spray water toward the fan and stay in. Have found no other way to help.”

“Oh yes! I used to have to get pain shots before it snowed! Now I live where it does not snow, but the rain is not near as bad. Any time the barometric pressure changes I can tell. My pain increases, my father had RA, developed in his 20’s, he would tell me his pain was worse in stormy weather as well as heavy irrigated areas. I do not seem to be effected with irrigation issues, but if I go to the ocean it is worse. Cold is bad on me as well, that’s one of the reasons I moved from Oregon to northern California . Oh yes I too use an electric blanket on my bed, and some days just sit in front of the wood stove! I have a hot tub which helps, but with the cost of power we have not used it in few years, sure do miss it, it really warms me up.”

“Absolutely!! Fall brings on sleep changes for the worse; insomnia, or just plain altered sleep pattern that doesn’t settle down until January or February. Any daily weather change can bring about headaches, body aches too. Too much to say, but that is most. Oh, and thunderstorms coming in mess with my brain–I’m pretty good at predicting storms! I get unfocused & even jittery if the weather is stormy enough.”

“I suffer more when wet weather is on its way I have scoliocis in my neck and it becomes extremly painfull which in turn sets my fibro off, the only thing that helps me is walking my dogs and a long hot soak in the bath with some lavender oil”

“increased stiffness making it difficult to walk with pain and depression”

“I do not remember ever being without pain and I am 75 . the weather here is up and down ,up and down-that is the hardest(the barometer changing). In AZ, the weather was more stable. I hated the summer time humidity growing up—now I understand why that was. As with most people with fibro and other related problems, it is a constant battle to stay “nornal”—whatever that is. As well as the pain, exhaustion is the other constant. As well, we all know, we have to constantly put one foot in front of the other and get up and go. Tough love for ourselves, I thank God everyday I can do it.”

“I try to keep moving and keep warm..if I let myself get cold and just sit or lay I’m down for the day.! So I guess keep moving or stay in bed on a heating pad! :(“

“i stay warm. This summer has not been bad. I dread the winter cuz I already feel the pain with the weather changes and rain. I have arthritis all over my body so with that and the fibro i can feel it. I can’t take Aleve anymore due to my kidneys shutting down 3 years ago. All I can take is arthritis tylenol and lortab 10 which sometimes takes the edge off but that’s all. I wear layers of clothes. I use lidocaine ointment. I go to the chiropractor. I see a pain management dr. I go see my primary dr. I do anything I can to help take some of the pain away. I can’t function until the edge is off.”

I really want to thank everyone that so kindly answered the questions and shared their knowledge and tips at the Inspired Living with Fibromyalgia Facebook page!

No matter how you look at it, weather changes and the cold does affect many people with Fibromyalgia and the solutions are actually pretty simple. Ultimately, the solution seems to boil down to needing to stay warm, not too hot or too cold, or the pain gets a lots worse…

Does cold weather or changes to weather affect you? And if so, what do you do to combat the cold or the weather changes?

Hello Fibro Friends. My name is Emily. I have Fibromyalgia, but it doesn’t have me, at least not anymore! After coping with the chronic pain and other difficult symptoms of Fibromyalgia for more than a decade, I have learned wonderful ways to improve my quality of life and find inspiration in the world around me. My purpose in life is to increase Fibromyalgia awareness and understanding, while helping others reach an Inspired Life! I love teaching others how to not only cope with Fibromyalgia, but to actually excel at living an abundant, healthy, and inspired lifestyle.

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  1. Hi! So glad I found your blog! I also have fibromyalgia (and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) — was diagnosed nearly 11 years ago. I’m right the opposite about cold weather. I can’t tolerate hot weather. I keep my husband and kids freezing in the house with the A/C running so cold. LOL It’s great to find your blog and I look forward to reading more. Thanks for sharing!! — Joy

  2. That’s great to know that it affects people the other way too! I’m glad you find us!

  3. Cold weather is the WORST! Heat bothers me too, but the cold just has a horrible effect on my pain levels. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and have developed some coping methods that help me. You can find them here: Surviving the Winter with Fibromyalgia

  4. Wendy, thanks for sharing. I enjoyed your Surviving the Winter with Fibromyalgia Link also! I also liked your Facebook page and started following with Networked Blogs. It’s always wonderful to find another Fibro Blog!

  5. Hi Emily,

    Nice to meet you! I am a fellow UBCer stopping by to say hello. This is a nice post. I like it when health articles are focused on solutions rather than problems. I think that is so much more helpful. I think your ideas of dealing with winter are helpful even to people who do not have fibromyalgia but who have other reasons for not liking winter. If you live in colder regions, you should find ways to deal with what is there. Thanks for a lovely post and great to meet you!

  6. Amy, it’s wonderful to meet you too. I’m glad you liked the article and found value in it! I tell people all of the time that a lot of the things on my blog actually apply to everyone! I focus on the Fibromyalgia aspect, because I personally have it and know so many people who have it who think there’s nothing they can do about the weather, or diet, or symptoms and I wanted to help! Look forward to getting to know you better Amy!

  7. I live in Southern CA. chula vista. The heat was awful. Only in shorts and tank tops. Still sweating like a hog on a roaster. wet cloths, cold showers. Heat over heats my body. The cool just chills me. i developed this sensitivity, when I moved to Merced, CA. Cold was hurting so bad. More cloths, more pain. had to move back to San Diego Co. I cool turns to cold for me. When I went to the beach, i just stood in the water or hours and was fine. Out of the water and was hot and burning. I dread what the winter will bring me.

  8. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. Every time there is a weather change, I get hit in some way: either pain, mild depression, fogginess, or fatigue. And there may be more: I can’t remember. :)

  9. Deborah, to be honest, in many ways I think it is the weather change that affects me even more than the cold. I almost always get hit with more pain when it changes, but you’re right sometimes it is more fatigue or fog. Good point. The cold still physically hurts though, I can literally feel it in my bones. So glad to meet you Deborah, I just started following your blog. We, Fibro Bloggers, need to stick together! :-)

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