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.

CRPS Symptoms

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.

Peace, Keith


picobill said...

Hi Keith, great work on the Cold weather.. I'm likewise a sufferer.. CRPS since 2008 and finally moved south in 2012. Decision was made easy since between Worker's Comp, a nasty Insurance Company, and a very nasty Home Mortgage Lender. I had one house less to call home up north. *L* Anyway one thing you left out of things to consider for the move Family! In our case my Lady's family rather than mine, )most of mine live up north or too far south (Miami!) Which is what brought us to GA, though details of the move are a blur to me 'cept to say get a quote on a professional move, you'd be surprised just how much a do it yourself move can cost.. Which is why about 1/3 rd of our belongings(Garage & yard stuff mostly) is in a brother-in-law's storage locker. Underestimated the space needed!! Anyway GA Summer past.. I'm good with hot.. and too hot well just break for the AC and away from the AC Drafts..

Warrior1 said...

Great article whereas I personally am retiring , even though I have not worked for four years due to RSD in my foot. I NEED to get out of MICHIGAN and was wondering if some Southern states were to warm. I would be a classic move-back. So you confirmed to me my concern and if I could make just ONE move to the right state would be better!
Funny, NC seems to be on my mind. Any particular places do you recommend for NC?
Thank you,

Keith said...

I think NC is fantastic s far as the weather goes, the middle of the state anyway.

The coast area you still have to deal with hurricanes once in a while so we tossed that out when we were considering a new place to live, the mountains were too snowy. But the middle was just right. I sound like goldilocks. We average about 4 inches of snow each winter here.

What we did was spent a lot of time on the internet; putting in weather stats year round, temperature, snow, etc.; then we put in cost of living numbers; rental, buying a home, etc.; then we put in crime statistics (depends on whether you want to live in a big city or small town); then we searched for medical care; then we searched for amenities such as what there was to do that we liked. Our town is small, about 45K, but has s symphony, stages plays, science center, has a university, two libraries, farmers market each week, lots of churches who are very involved in the community, and concerts every Sunday evening under the stars. Not to mention very strong medical care and two large hospitals.

Hope that helps!

Heather said...

I have no idea, until a couple of days ago, that cold weather made RSD more painful. And it does. Ever since it got cold (Wisconsin) my meds are working less. It's going to be a long winter.

alittlenutz said...

Preaching to the choir!! :) I am from southern California and I have been living.... No, partially existing in Nebraska for almost 18 years. Diagnosed with CRPS a year ago, docs figuring out that I've had it for 4 years, I am also recently unable to work. Still need to file disability. It's a pain! Another subject, another day haha. Anyways, I was lucky enough to get a 10 day vacation back to Oceanside in March. It was the best 10 days of my life!!! My daily pain levels average around an 8, that's with medications. While I was back home, it was somewhere around a 3, and I want taking as many meds as I do when I'm here in Nebraska. As winter has set in something fierce, temps have been below zero for over a week now, I really wish I could go back home. I think at first my husband thought it was just me being homesick that makes me constantly talk about wanting to go back home. But, after many discussions, he has realized that I just want my life back! For those 10 days, I felt like ME! Sadly, here, I spend 70-80% of my life in bed. That's not living.
I just hope one day, soon, I can finally get everything lined up and go back home. I don't care about everyone's opinions about the 'cost of living' ..... they have no idea what living here costs me. I love my family and my friends, but if I can barely get out to enjoy any of them, what's the point?