If you’re like us, every time it rains or god forbid snows, you wake up with horrible pelvic pain and even joint pain. Is it all in your head? Nope! Harvard professor Dr. Robert Newlin Jamison says, “For whatever reason, people with chronic pain are real shy about saying it, because they think other people think they’re nuts.” Two-thirds of patients studied reported they felt weather impacted their pain.
New research suggests certain type of pains do get worse with changes in weather. Some patients even feel pain the day before a storm, a phenomena called “cold allodynia.” But how is this possible? One theory is changes in air pressure, or barometric pressure, is what causes the pain and not cold, wind, rain or snow. Barometric pressure drops before storms, causing less air pressure to press against the body. Tissues expand, putting pressure on joints.
If you suffer from chronic pain, your nerves may become more sensitized to these changes in barometric pressure because of inflammation, scarring, adhesions, and injury. Many women with advanced stages of endometriosis have adhesions, scar tissue from previous surgeries, and chronic pelvic, bladder, and bowel inflammation, so it makes sense changes in weather impact you. The effect can be even worse at higher altitudes like Denver, Colorado, because there’s less barometric pressure daily. This means you’re in a chronic state of pain and changes in weather are the cherry on top of your mile high pain.
Pelvic pain may be one type of pain that is impacted by drops in temperature. One study of 31 patients found a negative correlation between temperature and pelvic pain and another study found increasing temperature relieved pelvic pain in the winter. Researchers suggested increased muscle spams or stiffness may be the cause of more pelvic pain in the winter.
Should you move to a warmer climate to relieve your winter pelvic pain? Nope! Chances are your pain will travel with you and the decrease in pain will be so small you won’t notice any benefit. Dr. Jamison’s study examined patients from Boston,Worcester (which is colder than Boston), San Diego, and Nashville and found patients from San Diego were actually most sensitive to changes in the weather. This is likely because the weather in San Diego is so mild and stable that patients can sense much smaller changes in barometric pressure than patients in stormy cities. This means that one rain storm a year in San Diego or Los Angeles could hit you like a ton of bricks., making you look really wimpy compared to residents of Denver.
When people report relief of pain symptoms when on vacation in a tropical climate like Florida, is the relief from the increase in temperature? Nope. Patients often relax and move around a lot less on vacation than they do at work or home with the kids. If they returned to their regular daily schedule in their new location, the pain would resume because it’s based on activity, not temperature.
Read our “6 Tips For Dealing With Winter Pelvic Pain.”