How the Weather Affects Fibromyalgia

According to some hypotheses, weather changes could trigger fibromyalgia flare-ups. But what does science say about it? We'll tell you.
How the Weather Affects Fibromyalgia

Written by Maite Córdova Vena, 16 June, 2021

Last update: 16 June, 2021

People with fibromyalgia are susceptible to many situations that require quick adaptation. For example, lifestyle changes, a trip, a visit, a special event, the arrival of a new pet, an injury, etc. For this reason, many people have come to wonder how the weather affects fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic disease that doesn’t have a clear origin. It’s often considered to be the result of the interaction between various factors, but it remains a mystery. Added to this, each case is practically unique.

As indicated in the Patient Guide to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia, flare-ups of fibromyalgia can occur due to the aforementioned situations.

However, they can also be produced by stress, a stressful relationship with a particular person, overactivity, lack of sleep, other health problems (acute or chronic), fluctuations in hormonal activity and, according to some hypotheses, by changes in the weather.

The relationship between weather and fibromyalgia

To know how the climate affects fibromyalgia, you have to understand the studies
The relationship between weather and fibromyalgia has long been studied, although it still remains a controversial topic.

The fact that people with fibromyalgia are so sensitive to pain and many kinds of changes in their routine led to the thought that perhaps there could be a relationship with the weather. This would not exclude the influence of other factors, but experts have considered that it could play a relevant role in helping to understand more about the disease.

For more than a decade, an attempt has been made to provide an answer as to how the climate affects fibromyalgia, but the limitations of the studies (sample size, methods, etc.) haven’t allowed it. Still, it is interesting to know what the investigations reflected.

What the research says

In a study published in 2002, it was explained that a statistically significant relationship between fibromyalgic pain and climate hadn’t been found in the selected sample. However, it was possible that a group of patients with less chronic fibromyalgia could be sensitive to meteorological changes.

The results of a survey published in 2007 showed that among some of the main aggravating factors of fibromyalgia symptoms were changes in the weather. These occupied the second position in the list of factors. The first position corresponded to emotional stress.

In a study published in 2013, it was concluded that “although fibromyalgia patients often report that certain weather conditions aggravate their symptoms, empirical studies haven’t conclusively demonstrated such a relationship.”

Other work published in 2019 suggests that barometric pressure influences pain in fibromyalgia, but individually, and associated with emotional factors. Humidity also influences, although to a lesser extent.

To date, the scientific evidence on how the climate affects fibromyalgia remains limited and, therefore, not very significant. This is why more studies are needed to confirm whether the hypotheses made around climate and peaks of discomfort in various chronic disorders is real.

The relationship between the weather and other health problems

Some people who suffer from migraines may notice greater discomfort when there are triggers such as bright sunlight, extreme temperatures (hot or cold), dry air, changes in atmospheric pressure, high level of humidity in the environment, windy or stormy weather.

Mayo Clinic experts explain that “in some people, changes in weather can cause imbalances in brain chemicals, including serotonin that can lead to migraines.”

On the other hand, there are people with other health problems (such as osteoarthritis, gout and rheumatoid arthritis) who report peaks of discomfort when there are sudden changes in the weather (pressure or temperature), and also seasonal changes. In addition, they emphasize that discomfort is greater in the cold season (autumn and winter).

Taking all this into account, it isn’t surprising that people have thought that perhaps sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia could be equally susceptible to weather changes.

What can you do about it?

How the weather affects fibromyalgia: each case is different
Each case is different, so if a worsening of symptoms is detected with changes in the weather, it’s important to notify the doctor.

It isn’t possible to control climatic changes or to completely prevent discomfort. However, if you have noticed that there are certain changes (cold, high humidity, seasonal changes, etc.) that make you feel bad, you can take measures to prevent the discomfort from becoming very intense.

As indicated in the Patient Guide to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Fibromyalgia, after having identified what makes you feel bad, the next step is to develop a strategy (in conjunction with the doctor) on what to do in the next opportunity. For this, it can be helpful to keep a journal.

In general, it’s beneficial to lie down, rest, reduce activities, limit contact with the stimulus that may have triggered the discomfort (light, humidity, etc.) as much as possible, and apply relaxation techniques.

Don’t hesitate to tell the specialist about everything you consider necessary to clear up doubts and develop the strategy that is best for you in order to cope with the discomfort more easily.

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