6 tips for dealing with chronic pain during hot weather

July 6, 2020

chronic pain hot weatherWe know that many people with chronic pain report that changing seasons can affect how they feel. While cold, rainy weather may aggravate pain, very hot summer weather can do the same. Changes to the household routine, such as school breaks and family vacations, may also make managing chronic pain more difficult during the summer.

However, it is absolutely possible to enjoy the summer and associated activities, including traveling, if you have chronic pain. Planning ahead can help you feel your best while staying physically and socially active. 

How warm weather may affect pain

Heat impacts each person with chronic pain differently. But there are two good examples that demonstrate the effects of heat: fibromyalgia and migraines.

In a large study from 2007, 80 percent of respondents with fibromyalgia reported weather changes as a factor perceived to worsen their symptoms, although the specific weather changes were not described. The National Fibromyalgia Association supports this link between weather and fibromyalgia-related pain. Overall, many people with fibromyalgia have “temperature sensitivity” or a worsening of their symptoms (such as muscle pain or fatigue) with any extreme temperature fluctuations, whether it’s hot or cold.

Temperature changes are also commonly reported as triggers of migraines and tension-type headaches. In addition to temperature fluctuations, the heat of a summer day can lead to dehydration, which can trigger a headache or migraine attack.

Tips for chronic pain sufferers during hot weather

Summer activities often mean being outside in the hot weather, and this may be very difficult for you to imagine if you experience chronic pain. But there are ways you can enjoy the outdoors with a few adaptations and preparation. 

  1. Drink more water than you think you need to before going out into the heat. Hydration is extremely important. When you become dehydrated, your chronic pain condition can flare, and headaches that occur with dehydration are extremely common. Most of the time, if you feel thirsty, you’ve waited too long to have something to drink. Make sure you have plenty of water with you wherever you are in the summer.
  2. Think about where you will sit. Summer activities often involve seating that is not particularly comfortable, such as bleachers at a ball game, picnic tables, or the hard ground at the park. Keep a lightweight, easy to carry, and simple to set up chair in your car so you always have it if you need it. While any seat may be better than standing or sitting on the ground, try to find one that will be comfortable for you so you won’t make conditions, such as back pain, any worse.
  3. Spend time where you can stay cool — the water. The happy place for many people with chronic pain during summer is the water. Swimming or even just very easy stretching and movement in the water can be a wonderful respite. 
  4. Avoid extreme heat when you can and take proper precautions. The common advice for avoiding sun damage applies for chronic pain — stay indoors during the hottest parts of the day, seek shade, wear protective clothing, and apply sunscreen regularly. Plan to be outside during the early morning or late evening, and take a handheld fan with you wherever you go for a little bit of cooling power. 
  5. Keep an eye on air quality. During the summer, it is especially important to pay attention to air quality ratings before heading outdoors. Studies show that urban air pollution can increase inflammation, particularly for people with fibromyalgia, chronic pain syndrome, and multiple sclerosis. If air quality is an issue, it may be best to cancel plans for being outside.
  6. Boost your immune system with fresh summer foods. Keeping to an anti-inflammatory diet during the summer should be easy with so many fresh fruits and vegetables available. Enjoy the delicious fresh produce while boosting your body’s reserves of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and more. Cherries are a great example of a summer fruit that can have positive effects for those with chronic pain. The USDA found that cherries contain pain-fighting and inflammation-reducing compounds that can help lessen pain, particularly arthritis.

Remember that your healthcare does not get to go on vacation. While routines may be off, it’s so important to keep all of your regular appointments with your doctor at Southside Pain Specialists. Plus, be sure you are taking all of your medications as you should, and continue keeping notes in your pain journal