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.

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