How To Handle Cold Weather With Chronic Pain

cold weather with chronic pain

It’s hard to believe, but Fall is just around the corner again. And when those temperatures do finally dip, it will mean many chronic pain patients looking for a little extra warmth. Cold weather with chronic pain just isn’t a good mix. Many patients are sensitive to changes in temperature, while stiff joints can become worse in the cold. Here’s some ways to handle cold weather with chronic pain.

Try warming exercises for Fall

Warming exercises are a wonderful, easy, healthy way to generate extra heat. When you hear the words “heated exercise,” the first thing that comes to mind may be hot yoga, which has attracted a large fan base and inspired a range of other heated fitness activities, like barre and strength training.

Some people love the intense heat, saying it feels detoxifying and helps weight loss efforts. However, people with pre-existing health conditions should exercise caution before breaking a sweat in rooms that can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Also keep in mind that less dramatic, but still warming options are available. Some fitness classes are heated to a more comfortable 80 to 85 degree range.

Safety risks for hot workouts

Hot workouts are all the rage, but they may pose health risks. Increased temperatures force the heart to beat faster, and that’s especially true when the thermostat rises past 90 degrees, according to Greatist. This is why the body sweats so profusely—it’s an attempt to regulate internal temperatures.

If you have a medical condition that’s exacerbated by heat, experts recommend avoiding hot workouts. Those with high blood pressure should also consider avoiding the heat.

One of the benefits to heat is that it encourages the body to loosen up and builds flexibility. However, it can also weaken connective tissue, increasing the risk for pulled or strained muscles. When exercising in a heated room, take it slow and avoid pushing your body lest you push too far. Also take care to stay hydrated.

While extremely hot workouts can pose a danger, especially for those with pre-existing health conditions, seeking out warm places to exercise can be good for the body. Warmth encourages greater circulation and blood flow and enhances flexibility, making it easier to stretch, according to Reuters. Dr. Cedric X. Bryant, with the American Council on Exercise tells Reuters:

“Generally speaking, if temperature is 80 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity is below 50%, that’s going to be pretty comfortable.”

1. Warming yoga classes

While temperatures in hot yoga can break the 100-degree barrier, many studios offer warm yoga at temperatures ranging from 85 to 95 degrees. In fact, the air in most yoga classes will reach at least 80 degrees after people get moving and breathing, which is quite a bit warmer than outside on a chilly fall or winter day.

2. Indoor swimming

Most gyms have indoor pools, allowing you to swim laps all year long. Laps are an excellent, low-impact way to improve cardiovascular fitness and build muscle strength. Better, most of the indoor pools are heated or have saunas attached.

3. Mall walking

If you’re looking to get out of the house and stretch your legs, mall walking is an excellent option. While the mall isn’t heated to the extent of a warm exercise class, it is warm enough to be comfortable despite any chilly weather outside. Best of all, mall walking is free.

4. Zumba

Zumba classes are accessible for people of a variety of fitness levels. The aerobic dance classes offer the opportunity to take breaks whenever you need them, and they’re relatively low impact.

Although Zumba rooms aren’t heated beyond 85 degrees typically, you’ll generate heat and sweat in no time. Classes usually end with stretching exercises to keep you limber and feeling good.

5. Spin classes

If riding your bike into the cold wind doesn’t sound like fun, join a spin class at your local gym or fitness center.

Many gym facilities offer spin or cycling classes, and specialty facilities have also popped up. Some studios are more youth-oriented, playing loud music and offering a party-type atmosphere, and others offer a more subdued experience. Don’t be afraid to call ahead and ask what the atmosphere is like if you have preferences either way.

6. Tai chi

This wonderful form of exercise gently encourages prana, or life force energy, to circulate throughout the body, providing a warming effect while stimulating the entire body in a nurturing, healing way.

Tai chi is wonderful for warming the body from the inside out, and it’s perfect for people with less mobility. Through the practice, you will become more limber and peaceful while reducing stress, but these characteristics aren’t necessary to start. Just show up as you are and be prepared to experience the profound healing benefits.


7. Visit a town fitness facility

Fitness classes, especially specialty ones, can be expensive. If you’re looking to stay healthy and active through the winter, but don’t have a lot of money to do it, look into town recreational centers near you.

These facilities, run by their respective cities, typically offer day passes to residents for less than $5, or slightly more for non-residents. You can also buy monthly passes that cost less than many gym memberships.

Get an energy boost in Fall and winter

When cooler temperatures arrive, the body naturally slows down into hibernation mode. Shorter days result in less sunlight and more time available for relaxing with a cup of hot tea. Biologically, less daylight increases the brain’s production of melatonin, a hormone related to sleep. Although it’s natural—and healthy—to honor the change in seasons and slow down a little during the fall and winter months, there are things you can do to increase your energy, giving you a boost to get through the day with more gusto.

1. Seek light

The shorter days may make you feel more tired, but you can counteract that by exposing yourself to as much daylight as possible. Open the blinds wide as soon as you wake up, take short stroll during lunch time, and sneak outside every so often during the day. The extra light will help increase your energy and lift your mood.

2. Drink lots of water

During the summer, hot weather serves as a constant reminder to stay hydrated. But in the winter, colder temperatures make it easy to forget about drinking water.

Staying hydrated is good for your health, and dehydration can lead to fatigue. Because thirst is a sign of dehydration, it’s good to drink water throughout the day, avoiding the feeling of thirst all together. Start the morning off right by drinking a glass of water as soon as you wake up. Water is preferable to fruit juices or other beverages, even if they’re light or no calorie. Most non-water drinks have some form of sugar or alternative sweetener in them, making them less healthy. Water is the best liquid to fuel your body for high-energy and good health.

3. Increase vitamin D intake

Much of a person’s vitamin D supply comes from the sun, but fewer daylight hours and health risks associated with sun exposure have left many people with deficient levels of this important nutrient. Low vitamin D levels can result in fatigue, according to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Dietary sources of vitamin D include oily fish like salmon and eggs.

4. Exercise

When you’re feeling sluggish, few things are more invigorating than a good sweat session. Even though it’s cold outside, there are plenty of exercises to do indoors. Consider investing in a gym membership, where you’ll have access to a range of classes in addition to exercise equipment. You could also do workout videos online or along with DVDs.

However you choose to get your sweat on, fitting regular exercise in your schedule is good for your health and your energy levels.

5. Eat regularly

The body works hard to regulate itself, and one of its protective mechanisms involves slowing down when meals don’t come in regular intervals. The body is just trying to make sure it has enough energy to run itself, but fatigue can result from skipping meals.

Eating every few hours helps the body maintain optimal levels of energy while providing you with the fuel you need to get through the day. According to Harvard Health, it’s preferable to eat many small meals throughout the day rather than fewer, larger meals. Even a small, healthy snack of nuts and fruit keeps the brain fed and your energy levels high.

fall food

6. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables

Fresh foods nourish the body and provide extra energy. Complex carbohydrates are excellent body fuel because they promote steady blood sugar levels, according to Pain Doctor. The glucose that complex carbohydrates contain is healthy brain food, according to Greatist. Options include whole-wheat bread or oatmeal.

Eating foods full of iron are another excellent way to boost energy levels. Spinach and beans, including lentils, are good sources. Maximize the amount of fresh, whole foods in your diet and limit heavier comfort foods full of cream or butter. Heavy foods require a lot of energy to digest and slow the body down.

If you’re looking for healthy comfort foods, try nutritious versions, like this recipe for sweet potato and saffron risotto.

7. Limit sugar

Holiday festivities often result in a never-ending parade of cookies, sugary hot beverages, and other delicious, but energy-sapping foods. Cold weather tends to intensify your sweet tooth as well, making it even more difficult to decline those tempting cups of hot cocoa or pumpkin-flavored lattes. Although these treats taste wonderful, they result in energy spikes followed by crashes.

If you’re trying to maintain consistent energy levels, definitely limit your intake of the sweet stuff.

8. Laugh

The old adage says laughter is the best medicine, and having a giggle session also does wonders for lagging energy levels, according to Prevention magazine. Laughter reduces stress, burns calories, and activates the immune system—all healthy physiological changes that also result in more energy.

9. Stay social

While the tendency in winter is to hibernate, staying connected to family and friends can stave off the winter blues and beat fatigue. Consider joining up with a workout buddy to help you stay on track with exercise goals, or even meeting up for a cup of hot tea.

10. Maintain consistent sleep habits

If you’re tired in the winter, take care of your body and make sure to get enough sleep. People need varying amounts of sleep, but most adults feel good after seven to nine hours. Sleep helps the body heal and regenerate, according to MD Anderson Cancer Center.

It can be tempting to snooze too much in the winter, and excessive sleeping can result in more fatigue, not less. So keep a regular routine and nurture your body with just the right amount of shut-eye.

11. Relax and restore

Sometimes when the body is tired, it needs time spent in complete relaxation and restoration mode. Sleep is not the only way to relax. You might meditate, take a bath, attend a restorative or yin yoga class, get a massage, or simply lie around and read a book.

These methods help bust stress, which contributes to higher energy levels, according to MD Anderson. Listen to your body and take a break when you need it.

Do you have any other tips and tricks for feeling better during cold weather with chronic pain? Hit the comments with your advice.