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Fibromyalgia and Cold Weather

Updated on November 2, 2017

Cold Weather and Fibro Flares

Those of us who endure the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia know all too well how the weather can play a role in our pain level and how much energy we have on any given day. Frigid temperatures, for me, means more pain, so I must be prepared to combat it as much as possible.

Since I live in New England, for me it begins with the crisp fall air everyone else loves so much; it sends me running for a thick sweatshirt and sometimes, I hate to admit it, a hat and gloves.

Halloween is more trick than treat for me, since I don’t have the energy to want to go out for a night walking around in the cold (there have been years where there has been a dusting of snow on the ground already — it’s that cold), but I do it anyway for the sake of my kids and the memories I want them to have.

I believe part of the issue is not just the weather itself triggering something within, like how barometric pressure can trigger a migraine, but I believe cold air makes me tense up my whole body.
I believe part of the issue is not just the weather itself triggering something within, like how barometric pressure can trigger a migraine, but I believe cold air makes me tense up my whole body.

Why Does Cold Fuel Fibromyalgia?

For me, cold weather triggers something in my body and those horrible little trigger points of pain I have from fibromyalgia become highly active. There are times, particularly after being out in the cold, that carrying in groceries or the weight of my purse on my shoulder is excruciating.

I believe part of the issue is not just the weather itself triggering something within, like how barometric pressure can trigger a migraine, but I believe cold air makes me tense up my whole body. This, I believe, fuels the fibromyalgia pain even more.

I don’t realize I am doing it most of the time, but I tighten and huddle as if striking a defensive, protective pose from the cold. I catch myself doing it and try to loosen up, but it is a natural response to the pain the cold weather brings me.

Essentially, it’s like I am bracing myself, but long-term tightening of my muscles seems to bring on more pain.

There is also only so much coldness a person can avoid. I drive my kids to school every morning, scraping the windshield before I go. Then there are the last few soccer games of the year (where even the kids are cold), school events I need to attend in the evening, and endless birthday parties that still take place outside in that crisp air everyone else seems to love so much.

I feel like fibromyalgia is winning the war against me. I feel guilty that no matter how much I push myself to do, it feels like it is not enough; it is not as much as other moms are doing and I am the only one dreaming about getting back inside where it’s warm. I am the only one worried how much pain I will be in tomorrow (or by tonight) because of this cold activity today. I am the only one cursing the “crispness” of the air.

I feel like fibromyalgia is winning the war against me. I feel guilty that no matter how much I push myself to do, it feels like it is not enough; it is not as much as other moms are doing and I am the only one dreaming about getting back inside where it’s warm.

Old Man Winter Is My Nemesis

It is going to get worse before it gets better, too. Winter will be here soon and snow will cover everything. My kids will want to build a snowman, but I will want to hide inside because of the pain outdoor activates will cause me.

So how do we make the most of the cold weather for our children’s sake? Here are a few strategies I have found to limit how much Old Man Winter will fuel my fibromyalgia.

Winter will be here soon and snow will cover everything. My kids will want to build a snowman, but I will want to hide inside because of the pain outdoor activates will cause me.
Winter will be here soon and snow will cover everything. My kids will want to build a snowman, but I will want to hide inside because of the pain outdoor activates will cause me.

Sometimes It’s Quality, Not Quantity

I really try and make the focus on the activities I can do with my kids, not the fact that I can’t do all of them. We make the most out of what we do as a family, we take pictures, we plan special (warm) activities, and I personally try to focus on the good memories we make rather than my limitations.

How to Create a Fibromyalgia Coping Box

I really try and make the focus on the activities I can do with my kids, not the fact that I can’t do all of them.

Adjust Expectations

Kids hate surprise and abrupt endings to fun. I explain before we head out to any activity where weather will possibly impact me, that if it gets to be too cold or after a certain amount of time, we will call it a day (or night).

I let them know when I am starting to wear down, or the cold is getting to me, and when I need to head home soon. Warnings ease the whining. I let them know that if I get too cold at a soccer game, I will go warm up in the car for a bit, but I will still watch them and be there and see when they score that next goal. Basically, if you don’t see mommy on the sidelines, she is watching near a heater.

Dealing With Fibro in the Cold

Do you find your fibromyalgia gets worse in the cold?

  • 4% No, heat makes my symptoms worse.
  • 0% No, temperature doesn't affect me.
  • 95% Yes, the cold weather makes it much worse.
522 people have voted in this poll.

I Accept Help If I Am Really in Too Much Pain to Do Things Myself

There are days when the pain is already too much, and heading out into the cold is not a wise choice. My husband takes the kids to their game or helps with picking up a few groceries or running errands. He warms up my car before I head out in the morning and offers to do some of the heavy lifting tasks like laundry.

It has taken me a while to learn to accept help when offered and not feel guilty. I hope that you accept help when needed and ask for it if it is not offered.

Make a fibro-care kit for your car. Include a sweatshirt, gloves, scarf, throw blanket, Advil or Motrin, water, and heat packets you activate by shaking and they produce heat for hours. These are great for your pockets to warm up your hands and radia
Make a fibro-care kit for your car. Include a sweatshirt, gloves, scarf, throw blanket, Advil or Motrin, water, and heat packets you activate by shaking and they produce heat for hours. These are great for your pockets to warm up your hands and radia

It has taken me a while to learn to accept help when offered and not feel guilty. I hope that you accept help when needed and ask for it if it is not offered.

Find Ways to Keep Warmer, Longer

This is obvious, but it took me a while to get in the habit of planning ahead to stay warm. Make a fibro-care kit for your car. Include a sweatshirt, gloves, scarf, throw blanket, Advil or Motrin, water, and heat packets you activate by shaking and they produce heat for hours. These are great for your pockets to warm up your hands and radiate warmth.

The trick to dealing with annual cold weather expectations is to alter your plans a bit and make them as fibro-friendly as possible. If you are like me, you want to make these memories, but not pay the price for your actions for days to come. Accommodating your fibromyalgia can make these challenges a little easier to manage and save you a lot of suffering.

Written by Barbara Leech

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      ggggin 6 months ago

      I moved from NE Maine to N C. Not far enough south. Now live in Savannah Georgia.... winter is very comfortable and Summer is stuff dreams are made of. Now taking Enbrel shot once a week and I almost feel

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      Lisa 6 months ago

      I was diagnosed with Severe Fibromyalgia in 2008. They believe it was a direct reaction to a MVA I was involved in, in 1993. I suffer with muscle pain everyday of my life. Some days are better some days are worse. I have had to learn my own coping skills when it's bad or when I know it's about to turn bad. I once described the pain as if you were sick with a flu and your body hurts all over. This is what I feel only some days are easier to cope than others. I am currently being treated on Lyrica twice a day. I recently bought myself a early Christmas present, it is an oversized heating pad and I swear that this is something I wished they had years ago. When I know a flare is coming, I usually try to move about as much as possible, until finally retiring to my bed and muscle relaxers. Sleep and warmth seems to be the only thing that keeps me in check. Pain meds here are next to non-existant so I don't have that option. I have 8 grandchildren and I feel they have suffered the most.

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      Janell Kilian 6 months ago

      Everything affects me - can't do heat @ all & now this cold weather has every pressure point throbbing & making my joints hurt like hell! I miss out on almost everything due to the multiple triggers & have lost a lot of friends/family due to not being able to participate in things I once enjoyed :(

      And on top of all of this I was rear ended earlier this year, it totaled my car & has caused pain in parts of my body where I NEVER had pain before. It's such a vicious cycle :( And quite lonely........

    • profile image

      Alexis Abby Magee 6 months ago

      Everything gives me flare ups. The only thing for me is to crawl up in a ball in bed with covers and take my meds. Have lost alot of my life due to this horrible condition

    • profile image

      Becky Moore Fagan 14 months ago

      STRESS is My worse enemy with fibro.

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