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Why Chronic Pain is Worse in Winter, and What to Do About It

May 25, 2020

It’s a commonly reported phenomenon that people with chronic pain experience worse symptoms in winter. But why would this be?

One or a combination of factors may be at play here.

  1. Chronic pain sufferers are more likely to have nervous systems which respond very similarly to cold and to pain. Increased cold is therefore likely to amplify their experience of a pre-existing pain.
  2. Cold restricts bloodflow to muscles and joints, which can cause muscle tightness and joint stiffness that may be associated with pain.
  3. Less exposure to sunlight can negatively affect a person’s mood, or can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety, all of which can increase a person’s pain.
  4. Less daylight hours and poorer weather makes it harder for people to work exercise into their daily routines. We know that regular exercise is very helpful in the management of chronic pain.

So what can you do to relieve chronic pain in winter?

chronic pain

  • Exercise more! Do exercise indoors if you don’t fancy being out in the cold, wet and/or dark. This may be at a gym, or with a bit of space set up at home. Working more incidental exercise into your day can help too. Check out our last blog post for tips on exercising at home.
  • Heat packs are often good temporary relievers of chronic pain, but are especially nice in the colder months.
  • Make sure you’re wearing appropriately warm clothing.
  • Take the time to get some exposure to sunlight, whether that be before work, after work, in your lunch break and/or on weekends.

While these measures can help make your pain more manageable in winter, it’s best to have your pain thoroughly assessed and have a treatment plan in place. See our physiotherapist in Aubin Grove for help managing your chronic pain!

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