I found this article this morning and it confirms what I've suspected for some time. It's like night and day when it happens. Things were fine last week until it started to rain Friday afternoon and Saturday and Sunday I could hardly function. It's been a little better yesterday and today but no comparison to how I felt last week. I've always had a saying ...."When the sun shines, so do I" and is that ever true. For now I wait until this cloudy, damp, windy weather ends or they find a cure whichever comes first.
Fibromyalgia syndrome can be a very difficult condition to have to deal with. After all, not only does it cause relentless fatigue and muscle pain, but it is also associated with dozens of other symptoms, including depression, dizziness, and nausea. If you have been suffering with fibromyalgia for a while now, then you may have noticed that your symptoms tend to get worse during certain seasons and weather changes. A large percentage of fibromyalgia sufferers claim that weather directly affects their symptoms and pain levels, but can this really be true?
How Does the Weather Affect Fibromyalgia Symptoms?Many fibromyalgia patients claim that changes in the weather directly affect many of their symptoms. In fact, many fibromyalgia sufferers claim that their symptoms vary according to temperature changes, changes in air pressure, and changes in precipitation in their part of their world. Most fibromyalgia sufferers claim that they experience changes in:
- sleep patterns
- muscle pain
- the number of symptom flare ups
Who is Affected by Weather Changes?
According to a study performed in 1981, a large percentage of fibromyalgia sufferers may actually be sensitive to changes in the weather. In this particular study, 90% of patients claimed that weather was one of the most important influences on their fibromyalgia symptoms. And fibromyalgia sufferers aren’t the only ones to experience weather-related symptoms. You may also find that the weather exacerbates your symptoms if you have:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- multiple sclerosis
What Weather Factors Affect Fibromyalgia Sufferers?
There are five major weather factors that appear to affect fibromyalgia symptoms. These include:
- Temperature: Rapid changes in temperature can sometimes trigger a fibromyalgia flare or help to ease fibromyalgia pain. Cold weather tends to make fibromyalgia symptoms worse, while warmer weather tends to ease those troublesome symptoms.
- Barometric Pressure: Barometric pressure is a measurement of the weight that is exerted by the air all around us. On beautiful sunny days, barometric pressure tends to be quite high, but during a storm or similar weather front, barometric pressure drops suddenly. Fibromyalgia sufferers often find that these changes in barometric pressure can trigger muscle aches and pains.
- Humidity: Absolute humidity is a measurement of the amount of water vapor present in each unit of air. When absolute humidity is low, fibromyalgia sufferers often report headaches, stiffness, and flares in widespread pain.
- Precipitation: Precipitation is the term used to refer to any type of water that falls to the ground from the sky, including rain, sleet, snow, or hail. Precipitation is often accompanied by a change in barometric pressure, and therefore may exacerbate your symptoms of pain and fatigue.
- Wind: Whether it’s a light wind or a gale-force wind, wind generally causes a decrease in barometric pressure. This means that wind can trigger fatigue, headaches, and muscle aches in fibromyalgia sufferers.
Weather and Fibromyalgia: The Studies
Numerous studies have been conducted in order to evaluate whether or not fibromyalgia symptoms do appear to be influenced by changes in the weather. Most of these studies have had surprising results.
In 2002, a study was conducted in Cordoba, Argentina, where there are four distinct seasons every year. The study involved fibromyalgia sufferers and a healthy control group and aimed to find out whether pain symptoms could be linked to specific weather changes. Participants were asked to rate their pain symptoms on a scale from one to ten, every day for 12 months. After 12 months, these symptoms were correlated to weather patterns for the entire year. Researchers found that pain symptoms of the participants with fibromyalgia correlated directly to weather changes. Specifically, pain increased as temperatures fell and atmospheric pressure increased. The healthy control group did not show any correlation between pain and weather patterns.
Another study performed in Norway found a similar relationship between fibromyalgia symptoms and the weather. Fibromyalgia symptoms appeared to get worse during the months of December and January, but began to improve during April and May. This suggests a direct relationship between colder temperatures and lower barometric pressures and a rise in fibromyalgia symptoms.
Why Does Weather Affect Fibromyalgia Symptoms?
Unfortunately, researchers do not yet know why weather appears to affect fibromyalgia symptoms so much. However, there are a few possible explanations:
- Change in Sleep Cycle: Weather, particularly hot and cold temperatures, can sometimes affect the way in which you sleep. This could have a great affect on symptoms and flares if you are a fibromyalgia sufferer.
- Change in Circadian Rhythm: Your body operates using an internal clock known as the circadian rhythm. Changes in seasons and the amount of light that your body receives can throw off your circadian rhythm, causing you to feel fatigued and more achy then usual.
- Pro-Inflammatory Cytokines: There does appear to be a relationship between low temperature levels and an increase in the number of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body. These cytokines appear to be related to pain intensity.
Dealing with the Weather: Managing Your Fibromyalgia Symptoms
If you find that your symptoms are influenced by weather changes, here are a few tips to help keep you more comfortable:
- Dress in Layers: Prepare for those chilly days by dressing in two or three layers. This will keep your body warm and allow you to shed excess clothing should you become hot.
- Avoid Cold Temperatures: Try to keep your air conditioning off in your house during the summer, and keep your heat up during the winter months. If you have to go outside in the cold, wear gloves, proper boots, and a hat. This will keep your extremities warm and prevent aches and pains.
- Bring the Sunshine Inside: If you are finding that you are particularly fatigued or depressed, try to increase the amount of light you have inside of your house. During the gray winter months, it is easy to become depressed and tired, which will only make your symptoms worse. Purchase some halogen bulbs or a special light box to help improve your mood.