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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.

How to Incorporate Exercise When You Have Chronic Pain

It doesn’t take much research to uncover the benefits of exercise. Most of us already know that physical activity helps us maintain a healthy body weight, strengthens muscular and skeletal systems, can combat chronic diseases, improves sleep, and alleviates stress.

All of these exercise advantages are especially helpful for those dealing with chronic pain on a regular basis. A 2016 study published by the U.S. Association for the Study of Pain furthermore suggests that “high volume, low intensity [physical activity] may have beneficial effects on pain modulatory function in healthy older adults.” In layman’s terms this means — the right kind of exercise might actually help with your pain.

But managing exercise simultaneously with chronic pain can be a challenge. The experts at United Physicians Group understand these nuances, and we’re here to help you navigate that landscape.

Get a Solid Start

Before you begin, Healthline experts recommend consulting your healthcare provider in an initial physical examination. Talking with your doctor prior to or in the early stages of an exercise regimen can help identify any potential hazards or concerns, such as instability or dizziness, or other conditions that may determine what form of exercise will keep you active but also prevent further pain or injury.

You and your health provider can also establish a baseline for your current pain. Then you can track any increases or decreases in your pain levels as you start your exercise program.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

To reduce the risk of making your pain worse, take exercise slow. Rely on low-impact and low-intensity exercises at first, such as swimming, walking, or light resistance training. As you gain strength, flexibility, and endurance, you can increase both weight load and intensity.

Lightly warm up muscles and blood vessels before your workout, and leave time to cool down with stretches afterward. Over time, stretching will increase your flexibility and improve your range of motion. According to David Nolan, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, stretching can prevent exercise from putting too much strain on the muscle itself — another way to avoid more pain.

“Exercising releases feel-good endorphins,” says Wendye Robbins, MD, in an interview with Prevention, “which can help ease the pain all over. Start with simple exercises that target the less painful parts of your body.”

Pump Those Fluids

Staying hydrated is important for all of us, especially during a workout, but most especially for those with chronic pain. According to an interview in Spine Universe with Dana Cohen, MD, keeping well-hydrated is “the single most important thing we can do to treat and prevent chronic illness.”

Drinking water regularly (especially before, during, and after exercise) can also help lubricate joints, ease muscle cramping, and possibly improve muscle strength. Coping with chronic pain is complicated enough, without also having to worry over a new
exercise regimen. As your pain management specialists, we are here to help craft a plan that works for you. For a pre-exercise analysis, and advice on optimal workout routines, contact us online any time to schedule an appointment.

Are You What You Eat When it Comes to Chronic Pain?

The month of March marks a time of change: There’s the coming of spring, the start of daylight saving time, and even a chance to change your luck on St. Patrick’s Day. But March is also National Nutrition Month® — which presents an opportunity to change your eating habits, too. 

Turns out, paying attention to what you’re putting into your body isn’t simply good for your general health and well-being. Studies suggest that our diets can also help with chronic pain.

“A lot of chronic pain is the result of chronic inflammation,” says Dr. Fred Tabung, in a 2018 article from Harvard Health Publishing, “and the evidence is quite strong that your diet can contribute to increased systemic inflammation. But your diet is also one of the best ways to reduce it.”

Extinguishing the Flame of Inflammation 

Several sources can help point you in the right direction when it comes to identifying foods that either promote or prevent inflammation. The Fit Institute of Chicago, for example, recommends avoiding red meat, refined carbohydrates (in most cases: products made with processed white flour), soda, and fried foods to aid in inflammation reduction. Harvard Women’s Health Watch agrees, and adds margarine to the mix. 

Margarine (rather than butter) is on that list for a reason, as excessive consumption of omega-6 fatty acids (not to be confused with their cousins, omega-3 fatty acids), may also contribute to inflammation, according to The Arthritis Foundation. This means check the ingredients on your salad dressings, and moderate your intake of safflower, corn, grapeseed, peanut, sunflower, and vegetable oil. Mayonnaise may be a place where omega-6 fatty acids lurk, as well. 

“To reduce levels of inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet,” Harvard Health Publishing recommends. Several studies suggest the Mediterranean Diet, with its focus on plant-based foods and whole grains, but the Mayo Clinic also breaks down their advice fairly simply when they suggest “eat more plants” and “cut the processed stuff,” among their five “simple rules of thumb for anti-inflammatory eating.”

Anti-inflammatory eating doesn’t just help with chronic and arthritic pain, either. Several sources, including The Foundation for Peripheral Neuropathy and The Neuropathic Therapy Center at Loma Linda University Health suggest it can benefit those suffering from peripheral neuropathy, too.

Can What’s in Your Stomach Also Go to Your Head?

Following the Mediterranean Diet and keeping omega-6 fatty acids low could also help with migraine headaches a 2020 study in Nutrients suggests, though the authors also encourage a willingness to experiment with solutions. Because of the more complex causes and contributing factors of migraines, one single diet plan may not be a fix-all. An elimination diet to identify more specific food triggers is recommended. Researchers also find ketogenic, modified Atkins, or an epigenetic diet may provide relief.

More reason to be flexible, and willing to experiment? The American Migraine Foundation says a variety of different foods may trigger migraine, including alcohol (especially red wine and beer), chocolate, aged cheese, cured meats, smoked fish, yeast extract, and artificial sweeteners. But even making sure you’re eating regularly is something the Foundation suggests may relieve this specific kind of pain. 

Pain in a Bottle

While alcohol shows up as a specific potential trigger for migraine, it has a variety of dangers for those in chronic pain. 

It may be tempting, for instance, to numb chronic pain with a cocktail or glass of wine, but the National Institute of Health warns that mixing alcohol with pain medications could cause dangerous problems. They also note that, as tolerance to alcohol’s effects develops, more alcohol is needed to reach the same analgesic effect. This can create alcohol dependence, and the consequential string of health risks associated with it, as listed by the CDC, including stroke, heart disease, and the risk of several cancers.

Keep in mind, whether you’re in chronic pain or not, alcohol is a well-established cancer-causing agent (among other health problems), and moderating your alcohol consumption is good practice for anyone concerned about their longevity.

Cup of Caffeine Instead?

Alcohol may be a clear thing to avoid, but advice about caffeine is a little less consistent. Though the American Migraine Foundation suggests limited caffeine might help treat migraine headaches (and acknowledges that caffeine is a common ingredient in many over-the-counter headache medicines), The Global Pain Initiative recommends caution with it:  “Caffeine actively causes pain by decreasing the pain threshold and making the nervous system more alert to pain.”

Tracking your consumption of and sensitivity to caffeine (as well as other specific foods) in a food diary may be the best way to help you narrow down the cause of (or solution to) the pain that ails you in this regard.

Find a Friend for This Relationship

Navigating the effects of chronic pain is complicated enough, without also having to sort out the best way to stock your fridge and pantry at the same time. Even when the relationship between what we eat and how we feel seems clear, the exact solutions aren’t always so easy to find. It’s why we recommend reaching out to a pain specialist for help crafting an individualized plan to address the whole experience of your chronic pain. Contact us any time to schedule an appointment and craft a comprehensive strategy (including what you eat) just for you. 

What Can You Do to Alleviate Sciatica Pain?

Sciatica pain is extremely common, with as much as 40% of the population suffering from it at some point in their lives. Despite this, there are still many misconceptions that circulate about the condition. People sometimes mistakenly refer to any type of lower back or radiating leg pain as sciatica. The condition is more specific than that, involving pain originating in the sciatic nerve. Here’s what you should know if you think you could be experiencing sciatica pain.

What Is Sciatica?

The sciatica nerve is roughly two centimeters in diameter. It’s the longest nerve in the body, extending from the lower back through the hips, buttocks, and down each leg. The nerve supports motor function in the lower body, including the hamstrings, calf muscles, and some parts of the foot. When the nerve becomes irritated or compressed, it causes radiating pain known as sciatica.

What Causes Sciatica?

Sciatica has two main causes: inflammation which irritates the nerve, or compression of the nerve. The latter often leads to more severe motor dysfunction. The nerve can become compressed by a herniated or bulging spinal disc. Spinal bone spurs may also compress the nerve. More rarely, it can be caused by a tumor or nerve damage in conditions such as diabetes. Additionally, osteoarthritis can cause the opening through which the nerve flows to become narrowed, leading to nerve injury and sciatica symptoms. 

One inflammatory cause of sciatica is piriformis syndrome. In this condition, the piriformis muscle in the buttock spasms and puts pressure on the sciatic nerve. It can be caused by overuse of the muscle from activities such as walking or running.

Sciatica Symptoms

Sciatica symptoms can vary widely, and no two cases are exactly alike. Most patients report pain radiating from the lower back to the leg, typically only on one side of the body. The discomfort can range from a mild ache to excruciating, debilitating pain. It may also manifest as a burning sensation, a jolt, or a feeling like an electric shock. Some people find the pain worsens with movements such as sneezes or coughs, and that prolonged sitting can further aggravate symptoms. It’s also possible to feel numbness and tingling, or a combination of all these sensations.

What Can You Do to Relieve Sciatica Pain?

In many cases, sciatica is temporary and may resolve itself within days or even just a few hours. In some instances, however, persistent pain will call for professional treatment. First, you can try to alleviate pain with the following home remedies:

  • Hot or cold therapy to reduce pain and inflammation
  • Avoiding any activities that could have contributed to the condition, such as heavy lifting
  • Practicing proper posture

There are also several stretches you can try at home to externally rotate the hip, sometimes bringing relief: 

  • Try a seated spinal stretch. Sit on the ground with your legs extended straight in front of you, keeping the feet flexed. Bend your right leg and place the foot on the outside of the left knee. Position your left elbow so it’s on the outside of the bent knee, gently stretching the back. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  • Lay flat on your back and bring one leg in, hugging the knee. Pull it across the body, bringing it towards the opposite shoulder. Only go as far as is comfortable. The goal is to feel relief in the back. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the opposite side.
  • Practice pigeon pose, in which the right leg is bent in front of you with the outer side pressed flat against the ground, and your other leg is stretched out behind you. Keep your weight in your legs, sitting up straight and keeping your arms on either side of your front leg. Take a deep breath and gradually lean forward while exhaling, shifting your weight into your arms. Repeat on the other side. 

If the self-care approaches above don’t bring relief, an interventional pain management specialist can help you find relief. The proper therapy for sciatica will depend on its underlying cause. If the pain is caused by a herniated disc, you may need surgical intervention, but your pain management specialist will likely try non-invasive measures first.

Anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants often help. Your doctor might also recommend steroid injections, which can minimize inflammation around the nerve.

Physical therapy may help you correct any issues with your posture which could be contributing to the pain. Through targeted exercises, you can also increase flexibility and strengthen supporting muscle groups to control symptoms and prevent sciatica from recurring. 

Sciatica Pain Prevention

Once your sciatica pain has diminished, you’ll want to do what you can to prevent future attacks. While many people worry that certain exercises may have triggered the pain in the first place, the best thing you can do to avoid a subsequent occurrence is to stay active. In addition to the stretches listed above, low-impact exercise, such as stationary cycling, yoga, and water aerobics are good choices. 

Of course, you must first address any pain you’re experiencing before you feel well enough to get moving again. The specialists from United Physician Group Pain Management can get you started with an individualized approach to sciatica relief. Schedule an appointment at one of our locations to start your journey towards pain relief today.

How Do You Stop Migraines?

Anyone who has experienced a migraine understands that they are much more than “just a bad headache.” In addition to a throbbing headache, migraines often include nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Bright lights, loud noises, and activity can all make migraines worse. Migraines can be debilitating both during and for some time after each episode.

About 15% of adult Americans experienced a migraine in the past three months, and as many as 20% will experience migraines at some point in their life. Migraines are three times more common in women than in men.

The causes of migraines are still not well understood, although some common triggers have been identified, including stress, hormonal changes, lack of sleep, and dietary changes. People who suffer from migraines often try to limit these triggers to reduce the frequency of their migraines.

There is no cure yet, although chronic migraines sometimes become less frequent or severe with time, age, or menopause and may eventually cease altogether. Many people suffer with them for years.

However, modern, migraine-specific medicines, combined with a better understanding of the condition, can do a lot to manage the symptoms of migraines and reduce their frequency.

Emergency Treatment for Acute Migraines

The pain of migraines can be severe enough to bring people into the ER. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, “Every 10 seconds, someone in the U.S. goes to the emergency room complaining of head pain, and approximately 1.2 million visits are for acute migraine attacks.”

It’s not unusual for emergency room doctors to use opioids to treat the pain, however mounting evidence suggests that opioids can actually increase the likelihood that they will become chronic. (This is all in addition to the general risks of opioid addiction and abuse.)

Opioids are also typically less effective than two other kinds of pain relievers called triptans and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, although pregnant women and the elderly are sometimes advised to avoid such medications.

In 2019, two new non-opioid, non-narcotic medications were approved for treating acute migraines: lasmiditan and ubrogepant. Both have been shown to be effective at rapidly treating acute migraine symptoms.

If you have recurring acute migraines, you can discuss with your pain management specialist whether one of these medicines is right for you.

Prevention

While no treatment has yet been found to prevent all migraine episodes, there’s a lot that pain management specialists can do to reduce their frequency and severity.

Migraine-Prevention Medicines

Botox has long been used to prevent chronic migraines, and in 2018 the FDA approved a new self-injected drug, erenumab, that reduces the frequency of migraines for many patients.

According to the NIH, several drugs “originally developed for epilepsy, depression, or high blood pressure … have been shown to be extremely effective in treating migraine.”

Again, these are all options you can discuss with your pain management specialist.

Address Risk Factors and Triggers

Stress, anxiety, depression, obesity, and asthma have all been linked to a higher risk of experiencing migraines. Treating these risk factors may help lower the frequency and severity of migraines.

Many other factors can trigger migraines. These vary from person to person, but they often include bright (especially flashing) lights, loud noises, missing meals, consuming too much caffeine, not getting enough sleep, and eating foods with nitrates or aspartame in them.

Not all triggers affect all migraine sufferers, so it’s important to pay attention to potential triggers and discuss them with a doctor.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Many people who suffer from migraines are able to better manage their symptoms and reduce the frequency of migraines through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques. CBT strategies can help migraine sufferers relax, reduce stress, manage triggers, and better pace their activities to avoid overdoing it and triggering a migraine episode.

Conclusion

While we don’t yet know what causes migraines and can’t cure the condition, pain management science has come a long way in the pursuit of better treatment and prevention. If you’re experiencing migraines or serious headaches for any other reason, contact United Physician Group Pain Management to schedule an appointment with one of our pain management specialists.

Will Exercise Help or Hurt Your Chronic Pain?

If you’re experiencing chronic pain, you’re not alone. Persistent pain or discomfort is one of the most common reasons adults seek medical care. For some people, it’s a mild nuisance. For others, chronic pain can overwhelm your resilience and overpower your life.

Wherever you are on the spectrum of pain, exercise probably isn’t the solution that first comes to mind, yet lack of exercise could actually make your pain get even worse.

Exercise and Chronic Pain: Do They Have to Be at Odds?

Lacing up to go for a run probably doesn’t sound comforting when your knees or hips ache just getting out of bed. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up exercising altogether. In fact, regular physical activity can have many health benefits for people experiencing chronic pain, including:

  • Weight loss or maintenance, which can minimize stress on your joints
  • Improved muscle strength to help stabilize your joints
  • Increased flexibility to improve joint function and reduce your risk of falls

Beyond these physical benefits, experts say exercise can actually activate areas of the brain that make pain more tolerable. According to neuroscientist Benedict Kolber from Duquesne University, physical activity engages the body’s natural opioid system. Exercise activates areas of the brain that create a sense of euphoria sometimes referred to as a “runner’s high.” In other words, exercise can trigger the same effects as prescription painkillers, but without the side effects or risk of addiction. Exercise also often reduces stress, which can otherwise increase your sensitivity to chronic pain.

Breaking Down the Barriers

Of course, it’s understandable if you’re hesitant to get moving more when you’re suffering chronic pain. Pain sends a powerful warning signal that something’s not right, and it’s only natural to respond to that warning by moving less. The fear that working out will make your pain worse is a powerful barrier to regular exercise.

Our ideas about exercise can get in the way too. Physical fitness is so often portrayed in the media as people in peak health who are flawless and pain-free. It’s also largely promoted as a means of achieving some quantifiable goal, such as beating a marathon personal record or losing a certain amount of weight. For people with chronic pain, however, fitness can be both less and so much more than all that. Combined with appropriate treatment by a pain management specialist, exercise can help you get your life back.

You can reduce any risks, quiet your fears, and reframe your expectations of fitness by getting good advice from your pain management doctor and recognizing that you’re in complete control of your exercise. You can stop immediately any time something doesn’t feel right. You get to decide what your fitness looks like, then establish an exercise routine that works best for you.

Which Exercises Are Best for Chronic Pain?

It’s very important that you first talk with a pain management specialist — who may also refer you to a physical therapist — before you start a new exercise program. They can guide you to the exercises that will keep any risks low while doing the most to help you manage your chronic pain.

Here are some exercises they may recommend and that you may find helpful, depending on the cause and severity of your chronic pain.

Range-of-Motion Exercises

Gentle, rolling exercises are particularly well-suited for people with arthritis and other types of joint pain. These movements ease stiffness and improve joint mobility. Try neck rolls, raising your arms slowly up and down, and shoulder rolls for the upper body. Do gentle standing hip and knee circles to loosen up your lower body.

Walking

Moderate aerobic exercise increases stamina, giving you more energy to get through the day. Walking is a perfect choice: it’s convenient and can be done virtually anywhere. Consider starting off with ten-minute walks and gradually increasing the length if your joints tolerate it well.

Yoga

Pictures and video clips of yoga often feature experienced yogis in advanced poses. But yoga doesn’t need to be nearly that complicated. In fact, one of its most powerful benefits is that it’s rooted in deep breathing. Taking deep, cleansing breaths can help you manage stress and ensure your body gets the oxygen it needs to perform its best.

Once you’ve developed that foundation of deep breathing, you can begin trying simple, therapeutic poses. Gentle or restorative yoga classes, either online or in a studio, are ideal for people with chronic pain. If you have chronic back pain, stretches such as seated twists may help ease tension in your back muscles.

Modified Strength Exercises

Cable machines and free weights at the gym can be daunting for people with chronic pain. Fortunately, you can bypass them altogether, or choose to work your way up to them. You already have everything you need to get a low-impact strength workout at home. Limit the intensity and range of motion with modified exercises such as wall push-ups, standing planks, and chair squats to strengthen the muscles that support your joints.

Swimming

The water’s buoyancy supports your body weight and minimizes the stress on your joints and spine. It’s often ideal for anyone with chronic back pain. To keep it low-intensity, consider gentle water aerobics or a slow, steady swimming style, such as the breaststroke. Even “pool walking,” in which you walk from one side of the pool to the other, can give you a great workout. The resistance of the water will challenge your muscles in new ways without putting excess strain on your joints.

Cycling

Whether on the road or on a stationary bike, cycling provides an aerobic workout that adapts well to your current fitness level. You can dial the intensity up or down, modifying factors like speed and resistance to suit how your body is feeling. Like swimming, cycling is an excellent low-impact aerobic workout.

Finding Your Balance

Chronic pain calls for an individualized approach. The pain management specialists at United Physician Group Pain Management can develop a comprehensive pain management plan to help control your symptoms. Schedule an appointment at one of our locations to begin tackling your pain today.

Is It a Pinched Nerve or Something Else?

What’s causing the pain?

Is that pain in your back, buttocks, or limbs a pinched nerve? A herniated disc? A pulled muscle? Or something else?

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “pinched nerve” is not a medically precise term, but doctors and patients often use it to encompass a wide variety of conditions that may cause you pain. The underlying conditions can include:

  • Herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Direct injury to the nerve
  • Obesity
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Bone spurs
  • Repetitive stress

In all cases, these conditions cause pain through “compression, constriction, or stretching” of nerves.

Symptoms of pinched nerves may include:

  • Numbness or a feeling that a hand, foot, or other area of your body is “falling asleep.”
  • Muscle weakness in one area of your body.
  • Tingling or a feeling of “pins and needles” in the affected area.
  • Sharp pain that radiates out. (In contrast, a pulled muscle will usually cause dull pain that’s focused in one spot.)
  • A burning sensation in the affected area that feels like it’s located in your deep tissues.

Treatment for pinched nerves.

In most cases, pinched nerves are temporary. You may need only rest and conservative treatment. But sometimes pinched nerves are a sign of something more serious that could cause lasting damage. So it’s important to pay attention and seek help early if your symptoms are serious or don’t improve.

If your pinched nerve pain is mild and recent, you can try:

  • Rest the area that’s hurting.
  • Take an over-the-counter NSAID such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Alternate heat and ice to relax muscles and reduce swelling.

But if the pain is more serious or doesn’t respond to home treatment, talk with your primary care doctor or pain management specialist. They may recommend:

  • Exercise, stretching, or physical therapy
  • A splint, collar, or other devices to isolate the affected area while you heal
  • A steroid injection
  • Surgery

Don’t ignore the pain.

If you have a pinched nerve, there’s no need to suffer in silence. There’s a lot you and your doctor can do to ease the pain. Also, ignoring a pinched nerve puts you at greater risk of permanent nerve damage.

So if the pain is mild, try rest and home care right away. If the pain is moderate to severe or doesn’t respond to rest and home care, don’t delay. Contact your primary care doctor or a pain management specialist right away.

Make an appointment with a pain management specialist. We’d like to help.

Why is My Pain Worse When it Rains?

Is the pain during rain all in your brain?

Can you feel the rain coming in your joints? It’s an idea that goes back at least to Hippocrates, nearly 2500 years ago: the weather may affect some chronic health conditions. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may already have direct experience with “arthritis weather,” and some people with other chronic pain conditions report that their pain gets worse when it rains.

There’s a plausible hypothesis for this perceived correlation. Rain typically comes with a drop in barometric pressure: the low pressure system you may have heard your local weather person forecast. Lower pressure outside your body may cause tissues inside your body to swell and irritate sensitive nerves. However, this explanation has not been proven, and some scientists point out that the changes in air pressure are about the same as riding in an elevator to the top of a tall building.

Other scientists speculate that high humidity may be to blame. Or a drop in temperature. Or the psychology of gray, dreary days. Whatever the underlying mechanism may be, the lived experience for many patients is clear: rain days are pain days.

Science has long attempted to study this anecdotal wisdom, but the results have been mixed. Some studies have found no correlation between pain and weather. Others have found evidence to support a connection between pain and low barometric pressure or high humidity. Both high and low temperatures have also had a correlation to pain in some studies.

So what can you do for rainy day pain?

While we don’t know for sure that rainy weather makes pain worse, you know when you’re hurting. Always follow your pain management doctor’s usual instructions. But here are a few things you might try to ease the pain on rainy days:

  • Run a dehumidifier. When it’s wet outside, use a dehumidifier to keep your indoor air at 40-60% relative humidity for comfort and health.
  • Wear compression socks, cuffs, and gloves. Rheumatoid arthritis and some other causes of chronic pain get worse with swelling and inflammation. Whether it’s caused by a low pressure system or something else, compression garments over the affected joints can bring down swelling and promote good circulation.
  • Adjust your thermostat. While the correlations between temperature and pain are not at all clear, keeping your home at a comfortable temperature may help.
  • Get some easy exercise. If you’re able and if your doctor approves it, light exercise may help loosen up your joints and bring down swelling. It can also lift your rainy day mood.
  • Be good to yourself. This is important every day, but those rainy day blues can heighten pain. Serious depression or anxiety can make pain even worse. Treat yourself well. If you’re experiencing something deeper or longer-lasting than an unhappy day, reach out for support. Caring for your emotional health can help ease the pain.

Here for you in all kinds of weather.

If you’re not already getting help managing your chronic pain, or if your pain is getting worse, we hope you’ll reach out. No matter what the weather forecast, there’s a lot we can do to ease your pain.

Make an appointment with a pain management specialist. We’d like to help.

 

What Your Doctor Wants You to Know about Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Note: As a new and emerging virus, Novel Coronavirus 2019 COVID-19 is not yet fully understood. Information about the disease is changing every day. The information presented below may change as we learn more and you should refer to the CDC website for the latest information.

COVID-19 currently spreading around the world is raising questions and concerns for many families. Please call your United Physician Group doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms that you think may be COVID-19 (more on that below). Additionally, if you or your family have other health conditions that may make you more vulnerable to the disease, call your doctor for advice on how to prepare and limit your risk.

We’re learning more every day about COVID-19 and how to treat it. We’re here for you and ready to help.

Here are answers to some of the questions you may have, as provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How can I protect myself and my family from COVID-19?

Scientists are working on potential vaccines for COVID-19, but currently, the only prevention is to avoid exposure to the virus.

To lower your risk, you and your family should:

  • Wash your hands frequently and well.
  • Avoid touching your face after touching other surfaces. (We know it’s hard.)
  • Avoid close contact (less than six feet away) with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched. (e.g. doorknobs, kitchen and bathroom counters, toilets, appliances)
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough.
  • If you have symptoms that could be COVID-19, consider wearing a facemask to avoid spreading the disease. Refer to the CDC for guidelines on wearing facemasks if you are NOT experiencing symptoms. 
  • Stay home if you feel sick unless you require medical assistance.

If you or someone in your family develops symptoms that may be COVID-19, call your doctor immediately.

What are the symptoms?

Some people experience no symptoms at all, but the most common symptoms are fever, shortness of breath, and coughing. Other symptoms may resemble a bad cold or the flu. According to the WHO, these may include “aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.” Serious cases can lead to pneumonia and difficulty breathing.

If you or someone in your family is having difficulty breathing, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

Who is most vulnerable to the disease?

Our best information so far says that the people most vulnerable to COVID-19 are elderly people and people with underlying health conditions that compromise their immune system. Young and otherwise healthy people do catch COVID-19 and, as a result, should also exercise the same level of caution to avoid contracting the virus.

Every COVID-19 case should be taken seriously, for your own health and for the health of those around you. 

If I develop symptoms that may be COVID-19, what should I do?

If you’re experiencing symptoms that may be COVID-19, the first and most important thing to do is call your doctor. Tell them what you’re experiencing, the concerns you have, and ask for instructions and advice.

If your symptoms are severe or life-threatening, such as serious difficulty breathing, call 911.

While we don’t yet know enough about COVID-19 to say precisely how many people develop serious symptoms, we do know that the majority of people do not. If your symptoms do not require hospitalization, your doctor will likely advise you to stay at home while you recover. The CDC recommends that you:

  • Stay at home except when needed to get medical care. Avoid public areas and public transportation so that you do not further spread the disease.
  • Wash your hands frequently and well.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces every day. (e.g. doorknobs, kitchen and bathroom counters, sink fixtures, appliances)
  • Limit contact with others in your home. If possible, use a separate bathroom and avoid contact with common area surfaces, such as the kitchen.
  • Monitor your symptoms and seek help if they worsen, especially if you have difficulty breathing.
  • Call ahead to your doctor before coming in, and let them know that you are experiencing symptoms that may be COVID-19.
  • Follow both your doctor and the CDC’s guidelines to determine when to end home isolation

Are the United Physician Group offices open? 

Currently, all United Physician offices are still operating to service all of our valued patients that depend on the care and service we provide. In the event that you are sick, unable to come in or simply are uncomfortable with visiting the office in person, please contact your closest location for options on TeleVisits. 

What is the United Physician Group doing to protect my health if I have to visit the office? 

There is no higher priority for us than the health and safety of our patients, staff and their families.

United Physician Group clinical staff is following the Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection Recommendations provided by the CDC. This includes 

  • Disinfecting each exam room or patient area after each patient is seen 
  • Disinfecting common areas and surfaces multiple times throughout the day
  • Initiating an extensive deep clean and disinfection to be performed nightly at all locations, and 
  • Implementing additional infection control and prevention measures for clinical staff

To protect the health of our staff and patients and ensure the continuation and a smooth transition of your healthcare, United Physician Group will be converting all previously scheduled and future sick visits to TeleVisits. We are also screening all patients prior to arrival in the office for any symptoms consistent with those of COVID-19 and asking affected patients to remain home.  

Any patient in the office that is exhibiting fever, cough or shortness of breath will be provided appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and isolated from the patient population.

We’re here for you.

Because COVID-19 is still new and not entirely understood, we know that it can cause some anxiety and concern. Paying attention to the disease is smart, but there’s plenty we can do together to prepare. Call your United Physician Group doctor with your concerns. We’re here for you.