If you’re living with fibromyalgia, you know that chronic widespread pain is a daily battle. Most patients also experience fatigue, mood disorders, and cognitive dysfunction known as “fibro fog.” In addition to all of these symptoms, cold intolerance is commonly reported among patients. Many people with fibromyalgia say they experience increased pain levels and depression during the winter months. Luckily, you don’t have to dread this time of year if you can make a few changes or additions to your daily routine. Here are some simple ways to warm up and feel better overall when you’re dealing with fibromyalgia and cold weather.
Why does my fibromyalgia get worse in winter?
When many people think of winter, they envision skiing, ice skating, or curling up by the fire with a good book. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case when you’re dealing with fibromyalgia and cold weather. Studies on the connection between fibromyalgia and weather are still somewhat unclear, but anecdotally, many patients suffer during colder months. Researchers have found no direct link between cold weather and increased fibro symptoms, though they have found that some patients are more sensitive to weather changes than others.
Many health professionals believe the worsening of symptoms could also be related to the fact that people are less active during the winter months. The cold keeps most of us indoors and away from exercise, which leads to a sort of physical de-conditioning. However, doctors do acknowledge that cold weather and drops in barometric pressure could also create stiffness or swelling in the joints.
While there isn’t definitive scientific evidence that suggests a strong pain correlation between fibromyalgia and winter, it remains a common challenge for many patients. The increase in pain, fatigue, and depression is a real issue for the 4 million in the U.S. who suffer from this condition. With this in mind, doctors continue to research the subject and search for natural forms of relief.
How to manage fibromyalgia and cold weather: 12 tips
We can’t stop the changing seasons, but that doesn’t mean you have to suffer through the winter months. Here are 12 tips to help you stay warm and comfortable when you’re battling fibromyalgia and feeling cold.
1. Choose soft, warm clothing
There are clothing choices you can make to prevent pain throughout the year, and winter is no exception. Fibromyalgia sufferers should look for soft clothes that are easy to put on, comfortable to wear, and simple to remove. This is the best way to combat the pain and stiffness that often comes with this condition.
In the winter, turn to ultra-soft fabrics, such as cashmere, fleece, and flannel. Warm, soft materials will keep you comfortable in cold conditions. But don’t forget to layer! Restaurants and even office buildings turn up the heat during this time of year. That means you could quickly feel hot while indoors. Layers will help you regulate your body temperature while you’re away from home.
2. Rely on heating pads
Heat can quickly relax muscles and put joint pain at ease. An electric heating pad will provide you with various levels of heat so you have more control over the temperature at all times. Some even include vibration features for an added massage element.
On the other hand, some patients dealing with fibromyalgia and cold weather prefer moist heat. There are non-electric heating pads with sponge liners that you wet and heat in the microwave. They come in various sizes to be used anywhere you need pain relief. There are even special wraps for knees and ankles, as well as mittens and booties.
It’s important to note that you should only apply heat for about 20 minutes. Overdoing it can lead to dry skin, as well as permanent discoloration and even burns. A little goes a long way when it comes to temperature therapy.
3. Try out compression gloves
Compression is a simple way to reduce swelling, improve circulation, and keep you warm. Most styles are fingerless to allow for easy typing and handling of objects, which means they are great to wear at work, too.
You can find our list of the best gloves for warmth and compression here.
4. Drink warm beverages
It’s amazing how quickly a hot beverage can warm you up on a cold day. From tea to hot cocoa, there are plenty of drinks to choose from.
For those who struggle with fibromyalgia, tea may even improve your symptoms. Look for green, black, oolong, and white teas. These variations are packed with antioxidants that can relieve anxiety and give you a boost of energy.
Just remember to keep your caffeine intake relatively low. Too much can make you feel jittery and anxious.
5. Turn to indoor exercise
There are several important benefits of exercise for fibromyalgia. From increased serotonin levels in the brain to improved joint mobility, a routine of low-impact exercise can have a positive effect on your overall health and mood.
If you own a treadmill, this is the best way to get in a good walk without being exposed to the elements. Stretching will also help you stay limber and loose. Consider joining a studio or gym that offers gentle yoga or even aerobic swimming classes. This type of exercise will keep you in shape during the tough winter months.
While indoor exercise is better than no exercise, keep an eye on the forecast for days that aren’t so frigid. A brisk walk outside can give you a healthy dose of cardio, as well as a little fresh air. This is a good way to reset if you’re struggling with depression or mood swings.
6. Take a bath
Just as a pool can immediately cool you off during the summer, a bath is a quick and easy method of warming up. Plus, it’s a great way to rest and relax in order to minimize stress, depression, and anxiety. Soak for about 20 to 30 minutes for the best results.
Consider aromatherapy if you’d like to add another level of wellness and self-care to this routine. Some of the best essential oils for fibromyalgia pain include peppermint, eucalyptus, and lavender. These scents can have an immediate effect on any discomfort you’re experiencing.
If you struggle with sensitivity to strong scents, try Epsom salt instead of aromatherapy. Add about two cups to your bath to relieve sore muscles and other aches and pains.
7. Wear comfortable winter boots
Comfortable shoes will cushion your feet and minimize pain from walking or standing for extended periods of time. No matter the season, it’s important for fibromyalgia patients to choose supportive footwear.
During the cold winter months, warmth is another important factor. Heat can escape through your extremities, which is why you should always keep your feet warm with comfortable winter boots.
Try a pair of Uggs or other similar styles for softness that is much like wearing slippers. These types of winter boots can even be paired with wool socks if you plan to be outside and need an extra layer of warmth.
8. Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is one of the best gifts you can give your body. While it may vary from person to person, doctors recommend seven to nine hours of quality sleep for most adults. This can improve your pain levels and help you manage any symptoms related to depression or anxiety.
Try to start winding down about an hour before you plan to go to sleep. Turn off electronic devices, avoid exercise, and stick to a consistent bedtime. Whether it’s a relaxing bath or a simple routine of washing your face and brushing your teeth, your evening ritual helps signal that it’s time for rest.
While many patients suffering with fibromyalgia find it difficult to get quality sleep, it is essential for your health. Talk with your doctor about fibromyalgia treatment options if you are having trouble sleeping due to your symptoms.
9. Eat well
It can be tough to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet during the holidays. Many people turn to foods that are full of sugar and carbohydrates while they’re stuck indoors on cold days. Plus, holiday parties are typically known as a time to overindulge.
Resist the temptation and try to eat a diet that is high in lean protein, vegetables, and whole grains. Fibromyalgia can already make you feel exhausted and worn out. A healthy diet paired with plenty of water will give you energy. Try to avoid alcohol, which is a depressant that can worsen mood swings and anxiety.
10. Indulge in a massage
A massage is one of the best ways to relax tense muscles and boost circulation. Ideally, a licensed massage therapist knows which pressure points will improve your pain and other symptoms. You may benefit from finding a practitioner that specializes in chronic pain and similar conditions. This will ensure that you’re treating the issue, not making it worse.
If getting a professional massage isn’t an option, self-massage is still a great way to find relief. Use a tennis ball for hard-to-reach areas on your back. Simply place the ball between your body and a wall and increase pressure for a deeper massage. If your hands aren’t sore, use them to massage your neck and shoulder region.
11. See the light
Depression is one of the more common symptoms of fibromyalgia. During the dark winter months, your mental health may take an additional hit.
A little vitamin D can go a long way, for mild cases. Make it a point to get plenty of sunlight whenever you can. It may be as simple as opening all of the shades in your home during daylight hours. Perhaps you can find a certain time of day that is warm enough to allow for a few minutes outside.
If that isn’t enough, talk to your doctor about light therapy. There are a range of products that can be used to give you a quality dose of vitamin D that will keep you healthy.
12. Find a support group
Fibromyalgia is a unique condition that is hard to describe to outsiders. After all, pain is incredibly personal and affects each person differently. You may be feeling as if even your closest family members and friends simply don’t understand. This is when a support group can provide the connection you need. It’s important to be able to have conversations with people who know what you’re going through.
Visit the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association (NFMCPA) for a detailed look at the support groups in your area. Find one that allows you to gather with other fibromyalgia patients on a routine basis during the winter. It can be incredibly therapeutic to know that you’re not suffering alone. Plus, you may be able to discuss important tips and tricks for coping with certain symptoms.
Not quite sure you’re ready for a support group that meets in person? Join an online community instead. NFMCPA and Inspire teamed up to create a free peer-to-peer support system with thousands of people. Whether you’re living with fibromyalgia or someone close to you is, you will find a discussion board for your specific situation or concern.
Finally, our chronic pain support group through PainDoctor.com is a great place to find other patients on Facebook who are suffering from chronic pain.
Learn more about fibromyalgia and cold weather
If winter weather makes it hard to function and perform daily tasks, it’s important to seek medical care as soon as possible.
If you need help managing the pain associated with your fibromyalgia and cold weather, find a pain doctor in your area by clicking the button below. You can also look for one in your area by using the tips here.