Research into the topic has proven tricky because of the sheer number of factors that influence a person's health and environment.
Diet, activity level and sleep quality, for example, change and fluctuate daily, making it harder to pinpoint whether the weather or something else is the cause of an increase in pain. However, doctors acknowledge there are links between them.
Changes in wind, humidity and light levels can aggravate chronic pain, but most weather-related issues revolve around temperature and barometric pressure.
While high temperatures can cause aches and inflammation, cold weather is more commonly blamed for discomfort. Chilly temperatures make the muscles tighten and increase pressure on nearby joints and tendons.
Cold exposure can also thicken the synovial fluid responsible for lubricating joints, making them stiff and sore.
Like gravity, air pressure is constantly exerting force on people. When barometric pressure drops or rises, it may cause muscles and tendons to expand or contract, irritating already painful joints.
While many people relate weather-induced pain to arthritis flare-ups, changes in temperature, humidity, wind and barometric pressure can influence several health conditions.
A condition characterized by chronic pain, tenderness and fatigue, fibromyalgia also seems to be affected by drops in barometric pressure and increased humidity levels.
Weather can have a significant impact on migraines for certain individuals. Changes in the weather can lead to imbalances in chemicals such as serotonin in the brain, which can cause a migraine.
Strong winds, dry air, pressure changes and temperature may also worsen a headache brought on by other factors such as stress, sound or light.
There are over 100 types of peripheral neuropathy, a term that describes damage to the nervous system. Changes in pressure and temperature can aggravate symptoms, including pain.
Cool weather and barometric pressure changes can cause nerve impulses to the brain to slow, intensifying pain. Blood vessels may constrict, reducing blood flow and worsening discomfort. Muscles may change slightly in extreme heat or cold, causing individuals to experience spasms and cramps.
Seniors can't change the weather, but they can try tracking when they're hurting and check weather forecasts to find patterns. The simplest way is to keep a journal and jot down weather conditions and pain levels each day.
Individuals who regularly use a phone or tablet may find it easier to use an electronic planner to record the information.
Once a pattern has been identified, residents can talk with their medical providers and the care team here at LifeStream at Youngtown about ways to reduce their symptoms.
Some preventive measures may be to run a dehumidifier during rainy days or a humidifier if it's extremely dry and windy.
When the forecast predicts inclement weather that may worsen symptoms, they can make plans to combat the issue, such as soaking in a warm bath or going for a swim.
As with any chronic pain or illness, talking to their doctors and therapists is the best course of action seniors can take to achieve results. Besides prescribing medications, medical professionals use many treatments and lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms and improve overall quality of life.
A few of the most common solutions include:
Trained therapists use gentle movements, stretches and activities to improve strength and mobility while reducing pain. Our residents can easily benefit from therapy and rehabilitation services within our community, letting them enhance health without having to travel to off-site locations.
Heat and cold therapies are used to ease pain, but in different ways. Sometimes they're used separately, but it's not uncommon to apply both. The key to making temperature-related therapies effective is knowing when to use which, so seniors should consult with their doctors and nurses to learn the best approach for their individual situation.
Heat, or more accurately warm, treatments include using a heating pad, warm bath or sauna to relax muscles, improve circulation and reduce stiffness.
Cold therapy is often used to treat inflammation and swelling. The simplest form of treatment involves applying ice packs to trouble spots.
Exercise and nutrition are crucial components to good overall health, so it's not a surprise they're also essential in combating chronic pain.
Movement and activity ease stiffness and help reduce pain levels, while proper nutrition supports healthy joints and helps reduce inflammation.
Exercise classes are among the many scheduled events on our independent and assisted living community calendars each month, and our professional staff carefully tailors wellness services to meet older adults' unique needs and abilities.
Similarly, our dietary team specializes in providing made-from-scratch meals aimed at helping our residents hit their daily recommended levels of vitamins and minerals.