With our recent nationwide decline in temps and unfathomably FRIGID weather, I started to do some research to answer some of my questions about how the cold weather affects our chronic pain. I found a surprising challenge in one of the answers: MOVE.
It is surprising that with all of the research that has been done over the years, there are still only theories of how the weather may affect various pain conditions. In 1996, the International Association for the Study of Pain did a review of several studies looking at the relationship between weather and pain. To this day, there is little evidence that can pinpoint specific weather changes to fluctuations in pain. My guess is that there are just too many factors related to pain, and the same goes for the weather. To try and show a cause and effect relationship within the limitations of research studies is a near impossible challenge. Despite this, chronic pain sufferers KNOW that there is a definite cause and effect relationship between climatologic changes and pain.
For a person with chronic pain, this weather just adds more obstacles to daily life. I need to be more even more mindful about how I’m spending my energy and planning my day. I need to make sure I’m practicing the tips that we talked about in the 5 Ways to Survive and Thrive in Cold Weather with Chronic Pain article. In doing my research, I also found an additional tip and challenge: MOVE.
When I say MOVE, I mean move my body. As in exercise and movement. Not actually move out of state. Although, that thought has crossed my mind. While doing my research, I found that there are also theories out there that an increase in pain during the cold weather could be related to a decrease in movement. The less we move our bodies, the more stiff we become. The more winter hibernation we do, the harder it becomes to crawl out of the cave, mentally and physically. So, this has become my challenge this winter (and for the year 2014): more movement, less stagnation. I would like to invite you into this challenge (as always, check with your health care team first before doing anything!). Here are some tips for you to increase your movement. Ready, set, go! 🙂
|Gentle indoor movement||There are many gentle movements that can help get the body and energy moving as well as calming down the central nervous system. Some of these activities would be: yoga, restorative yoga, stretching, walking meditation, T’ai Chi Chih and Qigong. Wellness practitioner Chris Endres has this free short video clip that includes many of the movements from T’ai Chi Chih and Qigong that are very simple and relaxing. You can also find some great short videos that are geared towards the senior population at TaiChiHealthProducts.org. Check them out because they’re gentle enough for those of us with chronic pain!|
|The Gym||I am a member at a simple gym. It does not have a pool or classes, but it has equipment and massage chairs. I usually do the elliptical, bike, and walk on the treadmill. I also do what I can on the weight training machines which means staying inside my comfort zone of training that I know will NOT add to pain or injury. Working up a sweat is good for detoxing our body and also moving the lymphatic fluid around (not to mention those endorphins!). On the days when my pain is higher, I allow myself to just focus on easy and light movement (usually treadmill and bike). I do it for a shorter duration and will take breaks. When I am having a “normal” or “almost no pain” day, I can push myself a little harder knowing that I will not go too far to throw myself into a flareup. When I am in flareup mode, I take that day off and give myself permission to rest. At the same time, I make a plan to get myself moving again.|
|Warm Pool||Visiting a warm therapeutic pool was a survival strategy for me during the first year after my chronic pain diagnosis. Our bodies just move better in the water. It allows us to perform gentle exercise that is not likely to cause injury. Sometimes I would imagine that I was on a Caribbean Island. I have fond memories of the pool. I met a lot of people who also struggle with pain on a daily basis and I learned a lot from them. Unfortunately, I developed a chemical sensitivity so the pool is no longer an option for me.|
|XC Ski or snowshoe||Last year I decided that I’m better off getting outside for some of my exercise. Our bodies need fresh air, nature and sunshine. Even if it is the winter time. For me it was a bit easier as I used to be an avid cross country skier and I have skis. Last year was the first time I went out after my chronic pain diagnosis and I did okay considering I’d not been on skis for 3 years. I made sure I was on a trail that was short and mostly flat. I brought my Supportive Spouse with me in case of any falls or emergencies. The movement of our bodies while cross country skiing is similar to walking and can be very gentle. There are even adaptive skis that can be used for those that need a seated position. Snowshoeing is another option. Disabled Sports USA describes this in more detail.|
Pain Camp is a safe place to share your thoughts, experience, strength and hope.What do you do to keep moving in the winter?