How to Beat the Heat with Chronic Pain

Does this situation from The Mighty sound familiar? “[W]hen it gets really warm, my body completely shuts down. All I can think of then is lying in bed and doing nothing. With heat, everything you do takes 10 times the amount of energy that it normally already does, which makes small chores even harder.”

Though summertime brings luxuriously longer evenings, and potential vacation from work and school, it can also mean an increase in suffering for those with chronic pain. 

In an effort to support your complete wellness this summer, here’s some information about why hot weather might affect your pain, and how to work around it.

Environmental Impacts

Many people who have chronic pain also have trouble regulating their internal systems when temperature and humidity change. Temperature extremes in either direction (hot to cold or cold to hot) might stress your body, and make it harder to moderate your pain. If possible, stay indoors with climate control during the hottest part of the day to avoid pain flare-ups. 

Pollution can also increase inflammation and cell-level injury, according to the American Lung Association. The Air Quality Index (AQI) can help you monitor air conditions that might influence your pain. 

Benefits of Nutrition and Hydration

A hydrated, nourished body can handle the heat better than one that is starved for what it needs. During National Nutrition Month in March, we made some recommendations regarding diet and how it can alleviate your pain, and want to remind you now that what you eat can reduce inflammation and help you feel better. 

But the main key for combatting summer pain may rest in keeping your body hydrated.

Ample hydration fights inflammation by flushing out toxins and keeping joints well-lubricated. Arthritis pain is also often exacerbated during the summer months because changes in outdoor temperatures can influence the level of fluid in your joints. Increasing your water intake may help across the board. Eating fruits and vegetables saturated with water (like melon, cucumber, and berries — all popular summer crops) can also elevate your hydration levels and (deliciously) ease your pain.

Another popular summer herb, mint, offers a natural cooling sensation. Mint teas, lotions, and soaps might provide cooling relief and lessen your pain.

Other Options for Relief

Even if it feels too warm to cuddle up, don’t forget that physical touch can help relieve both physical pain and the mental stress it causes. A hug, a massage, or a snuggle session with your favorite pet might help when the heat makes pain seem unbearable.  

A dip in the pool (or ocean, or lake) may also help. “Pools are one of the few places where we can both be more active while also actually feeling safer,” PainScience reminds us. The gravitational relief provided by floating in the water — even if only once this summer — may help your body in more ways than one.

Whether it’s through physical therapy, nutritional planning, medicinal pain moderation, or a unique combination of all and others, at United Physicians Group, we aim to treat each patient’s pain effectively. To learn more about methods to reduce pain or how hot weather affects pain, make an appointment online or reach out by phone at 833-523-0906.