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Fibromyalgia and the Weather

Fibromyalgia and the Weather

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition that affects about two percent of the U.S. adult population. The condition is characterized by occasional flareups which cause symptoms to worsen, and periods during which symptoms may seem to disappear.

As a systemic condition, the root causes of fibromyalgia are difficult to pinpoint and vary from patient to patient. In fact, fibromyalgia is also characterized by its individual nature, as symptoms and flareup triggers can be unique to the patient.

One factor seems to be the weather. Though of minor significance compared to other risk factors, there is research that demonstrates a link between weather changes and fibromyalgia symptoms.

What is the Link Between Weather and Fibromyalgia?

Weather conditions are a known aggravator for other conditions related to fibromyalgia. Rheumatoid arthritis, in particular, is known to worsen when there is a drop in barometric pressure, or when the weather becomes cold or wet. Cold, wet conditions increase pain sensitivity in most people, reduce circulation, and can produce muscle spasms. These can all contribute to worsening arthritis.

Although the connection between cold, wet weather and fibromyalgia isn’t as firmly established, several studies do show that people living with fibromyalgia frequently report worsening symptoms in the face of wet winter-like weather. Others, though, may have weather sensitivity to high levels of heat and humidity. Again, the individual nature of fibromyalgia means that individuals will develop different pain triggers.

For these people, the goal is to identify how weather affects symptoms and what can be done when nature makes fibromyalgia worse.

How does Houston Weather Affect Fibromyalgia Symptoms?

Houston’s weather can have a negative or positive impact on a person’s fibromyalgia symptoms – another sign of the condition’s individual nature. The Bayou City is located in the humid subtropical climate band, and it shows in the city’s weather patterns.

On average, Houston’s relative humidity tops out at about 75 percent. Add in the persistent hot temperatures (there’s more than 100 days where highs top 90 degrees), and Houston is one of the country’s hottest and most humid cities. On the flipside, Houston’s winters are generally pleasant, with mild temperatures and reasonable humidity levels the norm.

What does this mean for fibromyalgia patients? It’s well known that weather impacts symptoms. In fact, medical researchers rely on temperature changes to study fibromyalgia pain. The majority of people with the condition find it difficult to adapt to the cold, as low temperatures can aggravate joint pain, arthritis, and cause heightened skin sensitivity. Houston’s mild weathers are ideal for these patients.

Some people with the condition, though, have more trouble with heat and humidity. Humidity, for example, can exert additional pressure on muscles and cause associated pain. For patients with these triggers, staying inside during the Houston summer may be necessary to avoid flare-ups.

What are Other Signs and Symptoms of Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is primarily characterized by chronic pain that may appear anywhere on the body. In most cases, this is muscle pain, but it may also emerge in the jaw or face. Other symptoms include:

  • Headaches and migraines
  • Fatigue
  • GI issues, including constipation and diarrhea
  • Muscle stiffness or tenderness
  • Problems with bladder control
  • Problems with memory recall
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Poor quality sleep and sleep disturbances

Pain and fatigue are the most common signs of fibromyalgia, but symptom profiles may differ significantly between individuals.

What Causes Fibromyalgia?

There isn’t a clear cause or set of causes behind fibromyalgia. There does appear to be a genetic link, as it’s more likely to run in families, and people who have parents with fibromyalgia are more likely to develop it themselves.

An early theory among researchers is that the condition may be the result of certain gene mutations. Specifically, the genes responsible for manufacturing neurotransmitters in the body’s nervous tissue – including the brain. This may have an effect on how the body transmits, and how the brain interprets, pain signals.

What are Some Risk Factors That Can Trigger a Fibromyalgia Flareup?

Fibromyalgia symptoms may go quiet for several months, sometimes even years before they emerge again. Though uncommon, the condition can go into permanent remission. This is more likely for younger patients and those with less severe symptoms.

For the majority of patients, however, the condition is long-term, chronic, and characterized by the occasional flareup, during which symptoms emerge or increase in intensity. Some of the risk factors associated with fibromyalgia flareups include:

  • Other chronic illnesses or conditions, including anxiety, depression, osteoarthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome. Those with other chronic pain problems, like chronic back or neck pain, are also more likely to experience a flare-up.
  • Excessive stress or changes in life circumstances
  • Not enough sleep or sleeping at different times
  • Poor nutrition or major dietary changes
  • Becoming ill
  • Changes in hormonal levels
  • Taking a new medication

As you can see, fibromyalgia flareups can be caused by a number of factors, so it’s important for patients to track their symptoms and identify likely triggers.

How Acupuncture Can Help with Fibromyalgia Symptoms

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, so treatment is focused on reducing the impact of symptoms and restoring quality of life. Those treatments may include physical therapy, occupational therapy (for reducing work-related stresses on the body), cognitive behavioral therapy, and several types of medications – including pain relievers, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications.

Some of these treatments come with significant adverse effects, and they may not offer the hoped-for improvement in symptoms. As such, many fibromyalgia patients are turning to alternative therapies for support. One emerging option is acupuncture.

Research into acupuncture and fibromyalgia is ongoing, but there is reason to believe that acupuncture is a viable option for the condition. An impressive amount of research already supports acupuncture’s use in other chronic pain conditions, including migraines, chronic back and neck pain, GI pain, menopausal-related pain, and many other conditions.

One review of acupuncture and fibromyalgia, published in the June 2021 issue of Orthopedic Reviews, affirmed the use of acupuncture for fibromyalgia. The research team behind the review concluded that the evidence is encouraging for acupuncture’s use in the condition.

There are a few reasons why acupuncture may be effective for fibromyalgia, including:

  • Stimulating the nervous system – The research supports acupuncture’s use as a nervous system stimulator. It’s believed that acupuncture needles help regulate nerve signaling when inserted into the skin, leading to the release of endorphins and other feel-good, self-healing compounds. Essentially, acupuncture can help the body heal itself.
  • Improving hormonal balance – Acupuncture has been used through the generations as a way to balance hormone levels. This may be the reason behind acupuncture’s efficacy in menstruation-related pains, hot flashes, and other symptoms. It may also help regulate hormone levels in people with fibromyalgia.
  • Reducing stress and anxiety – Acupuncture is delivered in a calm, quiet room. It’s done slowly and, if administered by a trained practitioner, painlessly. The routine involved with acupuncture is calming for many and can reduce the impact of anxiety and depression on fibromyalgia symptoms.

Whether the reasons behind acupuncture’s efficacy are biochemical or psychological in nature, they’re enough for many people to attain relief.

When Administered by a Licensed Houston Therapist, Acupuncture Can Be an Effective Support Therapy for Patients

Acupuncture is a respected medical modality around the world, and practitioners are expected to undergo formal training before they can deliver acupuncture safely and effectively.

If you’re considering acupuncture for your fibromyalgia symptoms, working with a licensed Houston acupuncturist is highly recommended. A licensed Houston practitioner is trained to identify the right acupuncture points, insert needles without causing discomfort, and ensure clean, safe treatment.

Fibromyalgia is a frustrating condition to live with, but relief is possible for most, and many attain that relief through acupuncture.

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