Wednesday, February 1, 2012
CRPS and Cold Weather
This time of year many CRPS patients feel increased pain as well as other symptoms and may never have realized that there is a true connection between their CRPS and the temperature. But temperature changes, even barometric changes, can severely affect your CRPS.
Many patients report being able to tell when there is a storm coming, even small changes in weather patterns, by the subtle changes in their pain. For those patients who live in areas of the country that experience tremendous storms the pain can reach epic states, hopefully for only short time periods. Orlando is one area I know of that has some doozy thunderstorms having gone through quite a few. I have not been through any tornado's but have experienced a few hurricanes and they weren't much fun, neither were blizzards. I am sure you all have had your share of similar experiences.
For most, not all, living in the colder climates is simply too painful for CRPS patients. The extended below freezing temperatures cause too much pain throughout the winter months. This can all be traced back to the discussion of the damage that the application of ice has on the CRPS-affected area of the body we have on our website in the Physical Therapy section.
The principal is the same, whether it is ice or cold, the damage to the myelin sheath protecting the nerve is the same, just slower. In addition what happens is all the forward progress the patient has made during the warmer months, regarding physical therapy/activity, is lost during those winter months many times, even if you are somehow able to continue with some form of therapy in the cold months (warm water exercise in a pool, walking in a gym, etc.), because of the damage done simply being outdoors in the normal course of living; going to and from the car going to the store, Dr., gym, etc.
And I think anyone who has lived in the colder climates will attest to the fact that no matter how much heat you have on, 70 degrees in the house during winter, never feels as warm in your body in the wintertime as 70 degrees on a sunny day during the summer or spring or fall months.
In the end, many CRPS patients move further south. But too much heat, becomes too much as well, and states like Florida and Texas are too difficult to bear.
These were lessons I learned the hard way. But like many of you, for much of the time I had no choice at the time or lived where I lived for family. Eventually I became what they call a "half-back".
What's a half-back? Oh, I am so glad you asked, unsolicited man in the back row. And a very good question indeed during Superbowl week! Go Pats!
A half-back is someone who starts off living up north, moves down south, then gets halfway back and stops. Half-back. We stopped in NC. Its' climate is a mix of mostly great weather 10 months a year, and very little colder weather. We basically looked at the map to see where in the country we could find the best weather, temperature-wise; not too hot, not cold, extended summer, shortest winter possible, etc. Of course there were a lot of other factors involved that people normally use when choosing a place to live; housing, jobs, cost of living, crime rate, and a biggie, medical care.
So don't be surprised this winter if the cold weather has been making your pain worse, your allodynia heightened, your sensitivity worse, or any of your other symptoms MORE! Find ways to lessen their impact if you can and hang on until spring. If it is possible to move, think about it. If it is not, start figuring out ways to lessen the impact of the winter on your CRPS; warm water exercise, more PT indoors, different clothing, discuss with your Dr., etc.
There are also some CRPS patients for whom the warm weather is best, they actually prefer the heat, real heat. For them, they should consider those hot states, Texas, AZ, New Mexico, FL and others. Where you live can have a huge impact on your pain.
The bottom line is we need to remember as chronic pain patients that we need to always be thinking long-term and that treating our disease does not mean only with medications and medical treatments but also lifestyle. Small changes can reap big rewards.