Fibromyalgia is a widespread chronic pain syndrome that also leads to fatigue, disturbed sleep, memory difficulty and other symptoms.
Fibromyalgia is the second most common rheumatological disorder after osteoarthritis. It affects 2-8% of population worldwide.
However, it is more common in women than men. 8 out of 10 fibromyalgia sufferers are female.
Fibromyalgia is a long-term condition that is characterized by wide variety of symptoms such as fatigue, stress, depression, headache, irritable bowel syndrome, stiffness in legs, memory loss, disturbed sleep, numbness and tingling sensation in limbs, etc.
Fibromyalgia is not a life-threatening disease but it makes life frustrating and depressing.
Till date the actual cause of the disease is not known and thus 100% cure of the disease is also not available.
There are some medications and physical therapies that can reduce the symptoms but cannot cure the disease completely.
In 2011, American College of Rheumatology modified the number of painful body areas for fibromyalgia.
It also suggested that no tender points are required for the diagnosis of the disease.
The symptoms such as fatigue, sleep and other cognitive difficulties should last for more than or at least 3 months.
Some patients are reported to be very sensitive to changes in weather conditions, bright light, loud music, noise, temperature fluctuations, etc.
Among all these, weather sensitivity is considered as a minor criterion for diagnosis.
How Does Weather Flare up the Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?
There are various factors that might flare up the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Many patients think that weather plays an important role in fibromyalgia.
According to them, change in temperature, pressure and precipitation rate largely affects the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
The symptoms that changes with weather conditions are fatigue, stress, muscle pain, headache, sleep patterns, etc.
Various researches have been carried out to know the relationship between fibromyalgia and weather conditions.
According to an old study carried out in 1981, many fibromyalgia patients are sensitive to weather conditions.
It was also suggested in the study that 90% of the fibromyalgia sufferers were influenced by weather conditions.
There are many other diseases that are affected by weather conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and osteoarthritis.
Another study was conducted in Cordoba, Argentina in 2002, to evaluate the effect of symptoms of fibromyalgia on the changing weather conditions for an entire year.
In this study, a positive correlation was found between the weather changes and fibromyalgia symptoms.
It was also concluded in this study that pain increases when temperature falls and atmospheric pressure increases.
A study performed in Norway also found a similar correlation between fibromyalgia symptoms and weather conditions.
According to this study, the symptoms were worse during December and January and improved during April and May.
It was clear from this study that colder temperatures and lower atmospheric pressures were not suitable for fibromyalgia sufferers.
In a report published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research, it was mentioned that there is significant but small effect of weather conditions on the level of pain and fatigue.
In this study the weather parameters taken into consideration were humidity, atmospheric pressure, precipitation, temperature fluctuation and sunshine duration.
In some cases, it was reported that there is more evidence against the relationship between weather conditions and fibromyalgia symptoms than in support of these two variables. But, it is evident that uniform weather conditions can influence the symptoms.
Are there Weather Factors that Affect Fibromyalgia?
Yes, there are five weather factors that affect the patients suffering with fibromyalgia and are listed below:
Change in temperature or fluctuations in temperature flares up the fibromyalgia pain and other symptoms.
Cold weather worsens the fibromyalgia symptoms while the warmer weather eases the symptoms.
Low humidity has been reported to flare-up widespread muscle pain and even headache.
The barometric pressure varies with the weather conditions. On a bright sunny day, the pressure in high while in storms the pressure suddenly drops. Changes in barometric pressure tends to trigger muscular pain.
In some studies, it was found that there is a positive relation between increase in atmospheric pressure and pain while in other studies no correlation was found between these two.
Any kind of precipitation such as rain, sleet, hail or snow may increase the pain and fatigue. Rain can sometime worsen pain.
Wind can flare up symptoms like fatigue, headaches and muscular aches in patients suffering from fibromyalgia.
Increased muscular pain is greatly influenced by the above-mentioned weather factors.
Various studies relate these weather factors to fibromyalgia symptoms either positively or negatively.
In a study, it was found that intensity of pain changes according to the changes in weather conditions.
It was also found that people suffering with fibromyalgia for less than 10 years are more sensitive to weather conditions.
Many patients can actually predict about their pain by seeing the weather conditions for the next day.
In another study conducted by the National Fibromyalgia Association, the people with fibromyalgia ranked changes in weather conditions as one of the leading factors influencing pain and stiffness.
Few studies show very less evidence to derive a relation between fibromyalgia symptoms and weather fluctuations.
How Cold Weather Influences Fibromyalgia Symptoms?
Cold weather or low temperature is uncomfortable for almost everyone diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
This weather is not for fibromyalgia sufferers. At low temperature muscles tighten and body shivers for warmth.
Which is the Best Weather for Fibromyalgia?
The best weather for one sufferer may not be the best for another. People generally learn this by their own experiences about what is better or best for them. In general, warmer climate is better than chilly cold weather.
Dry climate found in Arizona, New Mexico and California are also known to reduce symptoms of fibromyalgia.
The symptoms also remain under control in mild climates where weather remains almost same all the year-round.
Thus, warm and dry climate is best suited for fibromyalgia sufferers. Calm weather throughout the year prevents flare up of the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
What is the Actual Reason Behind Weather Affecting Fibromyalgia Symptoms?
The reason behind the relation between fibromyalgia symptoms and weather conditions is not yet fully understood.
There are some possible explanations that explain the relationship between these two. Some of these are listed below:
1- Change in Sleep Cycle: Weather can directly affect the sleep cycle. Disturbance in sleep can affect and flare up other related symptoms.
2- Change in Circadian Rhythm: The internal clock of the body is known as circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is affected by changes in seasons. More fluctuation in weather leads to more effect on the circadian rhythm that leads to more fatigue and pain.
3- Pro-inflammatory Cytokines: These are responsible for increase in pain intensity at low temperatures.
How Can You Manage Fibromyalgia Symptoms in Weather Change?
Managing fibromyalgia symptoms is not that easy with the changing weather conditions. Some important points that can help in reducing the pain and fatigue are as follows:
1- Dress in Layers: In chilly and cold days, the sufferer should dress in two or three layers. This helps in keeping the body warm.
2- Avoid Cold Temperature: The fibromyalgia sufferer should avoid cold temperature as much as possible.
This can be done by keeping the air condition off even in summers. In winters, dressing up in layers, wearing gloves, shoes, scarf and cap can be helpful when going out.
3- Try to be in Sunlight: Sunlight can cure many diseases and keeps germs out. The sufferer should try to be in as much sunlight as he can if he/she is comfortable to bear that bright light.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder of musculoskeletal system accompanied by mood swings, fatigue, sleep disturbances, etc.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia make the disease frustrating and depressing. People with the disease prefer to live inside their houses to avoid any weather fluctuations that might flare up the symptoms.
There are people with fibromyalgia who want to visit places that can provide some relief from the pain.
According to some researches, there are some best places in the United States that can be ideal for the living of fibromyalgia sufferers.
Places with low humidity and warm temperature conditions are suitable for people suffering with chronic pain.
Places with heavy rain, high humidity and low temperature may worsen the pain.
It is very hard to know what causes the symptoms of fibromyalgia to flare-up. Keeping a close watch to the surroundings and noting down daily observations can help in the trigger points of the disease.
Some studies show strong relation between fibromyalgia symptoms and changes in weather changes while other show no strong relation between the two.
Some people choose to live nearby to schools and shopping centers to prevent staying out for a longer time.
Others try to shift to a new place considering the weather condition of that place. Cold temperature, storms and heavy precipitation make the pain chronic in fibromyalgia sufferers.
Thus, avoiding extreme weather conditions and keeping safe and cozy inside the house can prevent flare-ups of the disease.