A common complaint of people with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome is that cold weather worsens their pain. The cold seems to penetrate the bones and make everything contract and hurt. Medical science has found a possible reason for this: an unusually high number of sensory nerves in the circulatory system.
In fibromyalgia, cold can hurt your skin, and when you get a cold, it can be extremely difficult to warm up again. Still, the research is divided on the exact nature of the impact of the cold.
In 2013, a study published in the journal Pain Medicine stated that researchers found extra sensory nerves running to structures in the circulatory system called derivations of arterial venules (AVS). AVS act as valves, allowing and restricting blood flow, which is what transports heat throughout the body.
The theory is that the additional nerves mean that AVS obtains exaggerated information about inputs, such as pain and temperature, and this causes them to respond incorrectly. This may explain the tendency for people with fibromyalgia hands and feet to get cold and have trouble getting warm. We need more research to know for sure what is going on and what treatments can help to fight it.
It is well established that temperature affects people with fibromyalgia more than other people – it is used even in research because it causes pain in fibromyalgia more easily than in healthy people. Specifically, it is a good indicator of the reduced pain thresholds (the point at which the sensation becomes painful) that is a hallmark of this condition.
A 2015 Belgian study confirmed that bodies with fibromyalgia adapt differently to low temperatures. 1 In fact, it was so difficult for participants with fibromyalgia to tolerate the cold that it really hindered research!
In a 2015 study, participants with fibromyalgia reported that climate change was a major cause of symptom outbreaks, along with stress, exaggeration and poor sleep. 2 However, these were self-reports, which may not be accurate.
Some research has concluded against a connection between climate and pain in fibromyalgia. A 2013 study published in Arthritis Care & Research stated that:
There was no universal connection
That certain individuals seemed sensitive to certain climatic conditions
There were no characteristics in patients that seemed to predict sensitivity to climate 3
When you talk to people with fibromyalgia, there is usually little disagreement about the impact of the cold. It is common to find questions and comments like these:
“Time is the biggest criminal. I would love to know if people who live in states where it is hot and dry have less symptoms? ”-JennyG
“I have to move to Arizona ………. winters in the Midwest are brutal to fibro for me. ”
“I live in the UK, where the weather is often wet and cold, even in the summer! Now we buy an apartment in Spain, because, after a “test” in a house in October 2009, where I felt a lot less pain (climate, less stress, less housework, etc.), we decided it was a very better for me! ”-Sharon
“I live in southern Arizona, where we recently experienced an unusual and dramatic cold wave (while everyone was getting a lot of snow and ice) that broke many records. I realized when the front came through my muscles contracting quickly and pain went through the ceiling. I moved here from Kansas last year because the changes in barometric pressure and temperature were fast and frequent, as well as in the sun that I find very therapeutic. I was quickly reminded of the effects of sudden climate changes on my pain levels. ”-Dere
At the same time, many people with this disease are sensitive to heat and some are sensitive to heat and cold. This makes management difficult, regardless of the climate or climate in which you live. To manage the symptom, you need to pay attention to your environment and how it is impacting your body and think ahead of time when you know you will be dealing with extremes.